The concept of open government is one of enormous potential. At its heart it respects the right of citizens to engage directly and scrutinise the behaviour of government and the institutions of state.
Governments embracing this scrutiny and the direct participation of citizens ultimately make better, more informed, decisions. Greater accountability also builds trust and respect and supports a more equitable society.
With this in mind, it has been a rare privilege for civil society members to participate directly in the shaping of Australia’s second National Action Plan through the work of the Open Government Forum.
Our role has been to press for the inclusion of new big transformative ideas, to contribute our views on the strength of draft commitments and to seek to improve the process of consultation.
Many of the members of the Forum were members of the Interim Working Group contributing to the development of the first National Action Plan. Some are members of the local Open Government network, some represent other organisations with a demonstrated commitment to the principles of open government. Each brings a unique perspective to the work of the Forum and values the generosity and frank advice of senior officials participating alongside them.
We welcome the progress made on a number of the priorities in our first National Action Plan, and the fact that these will roll over for ongoing monitoring. Many of our first National Action Plan commitments are on track, while some are delayed. We would like to consistently see increased transparency around the reporting on progress of commitments from the first National Action Plan where those commitments have been delayed or not being delivered.
There is much to be encouraged by in Australia’s commitment to open government principles, and there is always room for improvement in our processes. Over the course of this second National Action Plan we hope to see high level government leadership, better support for the work of the civil society members in reaching out to their networks and improvement in the depth and breadth of consultation and communication with a broad cross-section of civil society. This is particularly the case in ensuring the engagement of people and groups that have had very limited input in this process to date, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with disability and people from regional and remote areas.
There are a number of areas of open government that are important to us that are not included in this plan. We look forward to developing these ideas into solid commitments that are ambitious and coherent in future plans. These include ongoing work on open contracting, building the capacity of civil society to engage, access to and management of information and new work in addressing inequality and injustice, sustainable development goals, human rights protection, a national integrity commission, a First Nations Voice to Parliament, and the Parliament’s engagement in the OGP through development of a Parliamentary Action Plan.