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Draft National Action Plan Introduction

Open Government Partnership AustraliaAustralia’s first Open Government National Action Plan was developed in collaboration with the representatives of civil society and launched in December 2016. It contains commitments to strengthen and improve transparency and accountability in business, open data and digital transformation, access to government information, integrity in the public sector, and public participation and engagement.

The Australian Government, informed by consultations with the community, has since made substantial progress in completing the majority of these commitments. Notwithstanding the expiry of the first Plan, it will continue to implement incomplete commitments, and report on progress to Australia’s Open Government Forum until they are concluded.

This second Open Government National Action Plan builds on the lessons and successes of our first Plan. It consists of a more focussed set of ambitious commitments, which will together further open up government, and help realise all the values of the Open Government Partnership to enhance access to information, civic participation, public accountability, and technology and innovation for openness and accountability.

The Open Government Forum recognises the potential for our Open Government commitments to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Australia and around the world. In particular, the Forum notes the mutually reinforcing aspects of this Plan with Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, which focuses on access to justice and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, and Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals, which emphasises multi-stakeholder partnerships to share knowledge and expertise.

This Plan has been developed in close collaboration with the Australian community, and has involved both online and face-to-face consultations, which have formed part of a larger developmental process that has been guided and overseen by Australia’s multi-stakeholder forum, the Open Government Forum. The Australian Government thanks all of the members of the Forum – which will continue to oversee and monitor implementation of the new Plan – and everyone who participated in the development of this Plan.

Developing our second National Action Plan

The development of this Plan has been informed by consultations with the Australian community. This was conducted in line with a five-stage process developed with our Open Government Forum, incorporating periods for:

  • retrospective reflection (November-December 2017), where we worked with government and key stakeholders to identify continuing and prospective themes and commitments
  • raising awareness of the OGP and the process to develop the next Plan, and seeking ideas (January 2018)
  • developing ideas (February-March), where we developed prospective themes and commitments through a series of online and face-to-face consultations around the country
  • drafting commitments (April-July), which included working with the Open Government Forum to further develop and refine prospective commitments, conducting another series of online and face-to-face consultations, and convening a meeting of the Forum to make final recommendations to government on the Plan, and
  • finalising the Plan (August), where we submitted and published the Plan.

Details and timelines of this process were first published online in early December 2017. In order to raise awareness of the process, and in particular to enhance public participation in the consultations, opportunities for public engagement were further promoted from early February 2018 on the OGP Australia website and on governmental social media, and emailed to subscribers of the OGP Australia email list and to specific key civil society stakeholders who had been identified by the Forum. Civil society members of the Forum also assisted in promoting the consultations.

Phase 1 consultations: Prospective themes and commitments

In the first phase of public consultation, in the six weeks from 19 February-30 March, the Australian Government asked the Australian community about prospective themes and commitments for the Plan. Individuals and groups could have their say by submitting and discussing ideas at the OGP Australia website in response to five discussion starters, and leave suggestions for other commitments. The Australian Government also convened five face-to-face consultations in different cities across the country.

During this time, nearly 60 comments and submissions from over 100 registered users and attendees were received and published. The outcomes of each face-to-face consultation were also published. The ideas for commitments were then considered by the Open Government Forum, who worked with the government agencies to further develop and refine them at its meetings in April, May, and June. The Forum discussed emerging cross-cutting themes in business, integrity, engagement, states and territories, and data.

Phase 2 consultations: Draft Plan

This second phase was held from 25 June-8 July, and included release of a full draft Plan for comment online, which contained eight draft commitments. The Australian Government also held two face-to-face workshops. These consultations were promoted by the Australian Government and civil society members of the Open Government Forum in a manner similar to that employed for the first phase of consultations.

During this time [xxx] comments and submissions from [xxx] registered users and attendees were received and published. Australia’s Open Government Forum met again in July to consider feedback received in this second phase of consultations and make a final recommendation to government on the content of Australia’s second Open Government National Action Plan 2018-20.

Discussion question

Does this draft introduction provide sufficient explanation of the process used to develop Australia's second Open Government National Action Plan 2018-20?

 

To participate, you’ll need to register for an account. You’ll then be able to respond to the questions under each of the proposed themes, leave a general comment or respond to those of other participants, and vote on comments.

We expect your comments to be respectful and relevant. As comments are moderated, they won’t appear until they’ve been approved. If, after submission, you do not receive a notification stating that your comment has been queued for review, your submission has not been successfully transmitted to us. In this case, please email your submission to ogp@pmc.gov.au and we will publish it on your behalf. Comments will close 8 July.

If you wish to make a longer submission, you can email us at ogp@pmc.gov.au. We’ll publish all submissions we receive.

The outputs from this and the face-to-face consultations will be made available to the Open Government Forum. At its meeting in July, the Forum will be asked to consider feedback and make final recommendations to government on the form of Australia's second Open Government National Action Plan 2018-20.

 

Submissions and comments received via email

Comment

 

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Open Government...

The Melbourne consultation to finalise the National Action Plan were held on 29 June and were attended by 23 participants from civil society. Key issues that emerged from a discussion relating to Australia’s participation in the Open Government Partnership included:

  • the need for more clarity around the outcomes of the NAP2 and the need to take on board greater feedback from the International Reporting Mechanism’s recommendations
  • that it is going to be difficult to raise the OGP profile without more Ministerial backing/support
  • that, given the focus of NAP2, the Attorney-General’s portfolio, rather than the Prime Minister’s portfolio, would be better placed to lead government activity on Open Government initiatives
  • the communications strategy of the NAP2 is a bit confusing and needs to be better targeted to local stakeholders
  • there are significant usability issues with the website 
  • open data websites to be more user-friendly for non-technical people if they are going to meaningfully engage with these sites
  • there should be a consolidation of key performance indicator for all local governments (LGAs) across Australia so that rate payers can compare the performance of each LGA side-by-side
  • that political parties are exempt from the Privacy Act and can buy data to profile constituents. Governments should be prohibited from doing this.
  • that the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) should publish the source code for the computer programs used to capture and process / count the data on ballots in elections for the Australian Senate. The AEC should also be the subject to random audits of its hardcopy ballots to ensure it accords with digitised results.
  • there is an increasing prevalence of secrecy in society and government.
  • that Australians have increasingly little control over data that which has been collected in Australia but is now held overseas
  • the need for continued engagement through the implementation of commitments as well as the overarching governance principles that bind the commitments together

The following comments below were received from participants on the introduction.

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Open Government...

The Canberra consultation to finalise the National Action Plan were held on 27 June and were attended by four participants from civil society. The following general comments below were received from participants. 

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Gregory Thompson

I concur with some of the concerns expressed by Peter Timmins and his colleagues in the Australian Open Government Partnership Network. I want emphasise the comments made at the Melbourne Consultation on the need for strong leadership from the Prime Minister and his Ministers. Such leadership would mirror the leadership by US President Barack Obama and UK PM David Cameron. It would provide a strong signal of political leadership and encouragement to public servants and citizens as we learn together how to practice open government and so build trust and enhance democracy in Australia.

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Open Government...

Peter Timmins has provided the comment below:

In the submission by me and 13 other members of the Network, published above as a PDF, we highlight these issues about the process in development of the plan and plan content including:

  • Limited public engagement-an ongoing problem since Australia’s open government journey commenced in November 2015. The absence of visible public ministerial leadership, support and advocacy for the open government cause is a significant factor contributing to the low level of awareness of the initiative and participation in this process.
  • Questionable claims in the draft, for example about success in implementing commitments in the first plan; that the draft ‘builds on the lessons’ of the first plan and consists of a ‘more focussed set of ambitious commitments’; and that the plan has been developed in ‘close collaboration with the Australian community’.
  • The absence to date of a high-level government-wide overarching statement of policy intent to open government reform.
  • Opaque decision making, for example the basis on which some commitments suggested by civil society are included in the plan but others rejected.
  • The vague, bland formulation of most commitments that are included, most of which do not commit to substantive outcomes.
  • The lack of anything in the plan that would assuage concerns that ‘business as usual’ not collaboration and partnership will be the approach taken to engagement by agencies as commitments are implemented-as was the case with Plan #1.

Signatories include former Queensland Integrity Commissioner Dr David Solomon AM, the Chair of the Government 2.0 Taskforce (2009) Dr Nicholas Gruen, former Queensland Information Commissioner Julie Kinross, academics Professor Moira Paterson and Associate Professor Johan Lidberg, and others who have followed the government’s OGP initiative closely

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May Miller-Dawkins

We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Draft Second Australian Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan (NAP).

Open Contracting Partnership is a global organisation supporting partners to open data about the planning, procurement & implementation of public contracts so that stakeholders can work together to improve procurement outcomes. OCP has worked with over 30 governments to include commitments around open contracting into their OGP National Action Plans.

We provide the following general comments on the draft NAP and suggestions for improvement:
- As we understand that unfinished commitments from the first NAP (such as beneficial ownership transparency) will continue and continue to be reported, it is important to state this clearly in the second NAP and to list those that are continuing. This is important for those coming into the process who otherwise will be unaware of the work that is ongoing, and to demonstrate the commitment to seeing the work through.
- Communications and engagement around open government requires sustained investment within and external to government to build a robust community of reformers and supporters that can deliver change in government practice. From our experience, it is important to invest in community building within government through events and networks, and to connect those efforts with a well-supported civil society community outside of government. Building relationships and real dialogue and collaboration between these communities is what open government is all about.
- Part of opening up open government efforts is creating clear communications around the pathways for each commitment and opportunities for engagement (beyond the milestones to describe the work and processes that lead to the milestones). If done throughout, would be an important demonstration of good practice and meaningful engagement. The delivery of commitments in the OGP NAP should be demonstrating leadership in openness and engagement – and those leading them should be supported by PMC and/or the new engagement hub.

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Barbara Reed

The proposals for inclusion in the 2nd National Action Plan under the Open Government Partnership Australia are not particularly aspirational or exiting. They appear to lack concrete deliverables, relying on fuzzy motherhood statements, which it is difficult not to approve, but I note the comments of the Independent Report on Australia’s progress in implementing the first OGP National Plan (Stewart Report), which commented about vague outcomes, none transformative and few ambitious. It seems that the same can be said of the proposed 2nd National Plan commitments.

1. Collaboration: while I commend the government for attempts to engage civil society in rounds of face to face consultations and public commenting associated with the development of the second national action plan, it is clear from attendance that there is little engagement of civil society representatives in the process. The range of engagement is not large. It seems that many do not know about the Plan or commitments contained within it. Communication across the sector has not been particularly well coordinated nor sustained across the period of operation of the first plan. Significant further work on an engagement strategy and commitment to implementation of the engagement strategy is needed to engage civil society. If civil society is disengaged, there is reason to question how effective the existing mechanisms are, or how well they have been implemented. A much greater emphasis on consultative engagement would potentially see a more ambitious Action Plan with targeted and measurable outcomes.

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Open Government...

Dr Colleen Lewis has provided the comments below:

  • The draft introduction needs to specifically outline responses to the recommendations of the Independent Reporting Mechanism’s report.
  • There are possibly too many commitments. It may be more effective to concentrate on a small set of 3-4 commitments per year, rather than spread attention across many.
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