Commitment 1.1: Improve whistle-blower protections in the tax and corporate sectors
Objective and description: Australia will ensure appropriate protections are in place for people who report corruption, fraud, tax evasion or avoidance, and misconduct within the corporate sector. We will do this by improving whistle-blower protections for people who disclose information about tax misconduct to the Australian Taxation Office. We will also pursue reforms to whistle-blower protections in the corporate sector, with consultation on options to strengthen and harmonise these protections with those in the public sector.
Status Quo: The prevention of corruption, waste, tax evasion or avoidance and fraud relies upon appropriate protections for people who report these wrongdoings. Australian public servants who act as whistle-blowers have some protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act). While there are also protections available to corporate whistle-blowers, those protections lag behind the PID Act and protections available to whistle-blowers in other countries (such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act 2010 in the United States, and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (amended in 2013) in the United Kingdom). Current protections in the corporate sector are overly narrow and make it unnecessarily difficult for those with information to qualify for protections. In the 2016-17 Budget, the Government also announced it would introduce whistle blower protections for people who disclose information about tax misconduct to the Australian Taxation Office. A research project into public interest whistleblowing, Whistling While They Work 2, is currently being led by Griffith University and is looking into improvements across the public and private sectors. The project is partly funded by the Australian Research Council, and its initial survey of organisational processes and procedures is now available at www.whistlingwhiletheywork.edu.au.
Ambition: To reduce corruption, waste, tax evasion or avoidance, and fraud by ensuring protections are in place for people who report such activities.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of public accountability and transparency by: • encouraging, protecting and compensating whistle-blowers whose information reveals artificial tax structures and misconduct; and • reducing other forms of corruption, fraud and misconduct by ensuring corporate whistle-blowers are also encouraged, protected and compensated.
Commitment 1.2: Beneficial ownership transparency
Objective and description: Australia will improve transparency of information on beneficial ownership and control of companies available to relevant authorities. As part of this, we will consult with the corporate sector, non-government organisations and the public on the details, scope and implementation of a beneficial ownership register for companies, as well as other options to improve beneficial ownership transparency.
Status Quo: Improving transparency around who owns and benefits from companies is critical to protecting the integrity of our financial system and preventing the misuse of corporate structures for corruption and criminal activity. A beneficial ownership register shows who ultimately owns and benefits from the activities of companies. Australia currently has tracing powers for beneficial ownership of listed companies and investment schemes, but there is room to strengthen transparency across all companies. Australia has committed to the G20 Principles on Beneficial Ownership. The Principles state that countries should ensure that relevant authorities (including law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities, supervisory authorities, tax authorities and financial intelligence units) have timely access to adequate, accurate and current information regarding the beneficial ownership of legal persons (companies).
Ambition: To ensure that adequate, accurate and timely information on beneficial ownership and control is available to relevant authorities in Australia to address issues of tax evasion, money laundering, corruption and terrorist financing. To improve regional and international cooperation on taxation, including strengthening information sharing between tax authorities and sharing learnings to increase the transparency of beneficial ownership information. We will use outcomes of the work by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes to help develop proposals to improve implementation of relevant international standards on transparency, including on the availability and exchange of companies’ beneficial ownership information.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of transparency and accountability in business by: • improving the effectiveness of our legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks; • preventing the misuse of corporate structures for illicit purposes such as corruption, tax evasion and money laundering; • protecting the integrity of the financial system; and • increasing growth through private sector investment.
Commitment 1.3: Extractive industries transparency
Objective and description: Australia will enhance disclosure of company payments and government revenues from the oil, gas and mining sectors. We will do this by implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Standard (including working to enhance company disclosure of payments to governments for the sale of petroleum and minerals) and by continuing to support the application of EITI principles around the world.
Status Quo: The sustainable development of natural resources (oil, gas and minerals) requires transparent and accountable management of revenue received from these industries, including taxes, royalties and other payments. The EITI is a global standard to promote the open and accountable management of natural resources. The Australian Government has been a major supporter of the EITI, committing more than A$20 million since 2007. Australia announced its intention to seek EITI compliance on 6 May 2016, following a pilot to test the applicability of EITI rules and principles to Australian conditions between 2011 and 2014. State and territory governments support the Australian EITI and will participate directly in the implementation process. The EITI Standard will require companies and governments to report annually on governance and payments in the oil, gas and mining sectors. It will also require enhanced transparency of beneficial ownership information (related to commitment 1.2). The oil, gas and mining industries face increasing scrutiny. Our commitment to the EITI Standard will help to build the public trust necessary for an enduring and sustainable industry.
Ambition: To enhance transparency and accountability in the extractive industries sector.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information and public accountability by: • providing timely, reliable, publicly available and independently verified data on the extractives industries’ contribution to the Australian economy; • encouraging EITI adoption in resource-rich countries and support a level playing field for Australian companies seeking to invest in those markets; • demonstrating Australia’s commitment to global transparency, anti-corruption and tackling tax avoidance; consistent with current domestic and international trends; and • supporting the extractive industries’ social licence to operate, demonstrating its commitment to transparent and accountable operations.
Commitment 1.4: Combating corporate crime
Objective and description: Australia will strengthen its ability to prevent, detect and respond to corporate crime, particularly bribery of foreign public officials, money laundering, and terrorism financing. We will do this by pursuing reforms to relevant legislative frameworks, which will involve a process of public consultation.
Status Quo: Australia has strong laws in place to deal with corporate crime. We are a party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, and are due to be reviewed again under this Convention in 2017. The Criminal Code Act 1995 makes it an offence to bribe a foreign public official and sets out tough penalties for individuals and companies. While we have two sets of foreign bribery prosecutions underway, it is a challenging offence to enforce as the offending typically occurs overseas and can be difficult to proactively detect. We also have a strong regime to fight money laundering and terrorism financing under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. A statutory review of this legislation was tabled in Parliament in April 2016 and the Government is considering its response. We are also exploring new responses to corruption and corporate crime. In March 2016, we released a public discussion paper on a possible deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) scheme in Australia. An effective DPA scheme could help encourage companies to self-report criminal behaviour and provide enforcement and prosecutorial agencies with a new tool to identify and bring corporate offenders to justice.
Ambition: We will ensure that our laws applying to the bribery of foreign public officials, money laundering and terrorism financing are strong and there are no unnecessary barriers to effective prosecution. We will consult publicly on the implementation of recommendations from the statutory review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 and associated Rules and Regulations. We will respond to the public consultation into whether a DPA scheme would facilitate more effective and efficient responses to bribery and corporate corruption by encouraging companies to self-report. We will review the enforcement regime of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), to assess the suitability of the existing regulatory tools available to it to perform its functions adequately.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of public accountability by: • strengthening Australia’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to bribery of foreign public officials, and meet its international obligations; • improving the effectiveness of legislation to fight money laundering and terrorism financing; and • encouraging companies to self-report criminal behaviour.
Commitment 2.1: Release high-value datasets and enable data driven innovation
Objective and description: Australia will continue to make more public data openly available and support its use to launch commercial and non-profit ventures, conduct research, make data-driven decisions, and solve complex problems. As part of this, we will work with the research, not-for-profit and private sectors to identify the characteristics of high-value public datasets, and to promote innovative use of data to drive social and economic outcomes.
Status Quo: Public data is a valuable national resource and its use and reuse can help grow the economy, improve service delivery and transform policy outcomes. While significant progress has been made to advance the public data agenda within Australia, further work needs to be done to harness the full value of this resource. The Australian Government’s Public Data Policy Statement requires Australian Government entities to make non-sensitive data open by default. While government agencies will continue to release non-sensitive data, priority should be given to releasing, curating and streamlining access to datasets which have the greatest potential to deliver social and economic outcomes for the country. Ongoing engagement with non-government stakeholders is required to identify the characteristics of high-value datasets (such as format, accessibility, metadata and attributes), and discover barriers to accessing and sharing data. The public, research, not-for-profit and private sectors can innovate with this data in order to generate new business, develop new products and services, and create social value. It is of the utmost importance though that the release of data not compromise people’s privacy and personal details. The Government has provided some support to date, including through the Open Data 500 Australia and the DataStart initiative. There is now the opportunity to build and expand on these pilot initiatives to encourage the use of public data for social and economic outcomes. In the Government’s policy for Better and More Accessible Digital Services, the Government committed to working with research, not-for-profit and private sectors to identify high-value public datasets for release. This will be supported by a public registry of significant non sensitive datasets yet to be published on data.gov.au. The Government is also establishing a $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program to incentivise local councils to open up their data and collaborate with communities, local business, not-for-profits and research institutes to create innovative solutions to urban problems. The Productivity Commission has released a draft report on data availability and use that seeks to identify the characteristics (and provide examples) of public datasets that would provide high value to the public, research and private sectors, as well as the community.
Ambition: To develop an open dialogue between government and non-government sectors to identify characteristics of high-value data and to stimulate greater use and re use of public data in innovative ways.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information, technology and innovation and public participation by: • identifying and prioritising high-value datasets for priority release; • understanding how Australian businesses and not-for-profits are using public data; • stimulating use and re-use of public data in innovative ways; • encouraging the use of public data to create social value; • identifying and addressing barriers impeding the sharing of and access to data; and • fostering a dialogue on how public data can be made more useful.
Commitment 2.2: Build and maintain public trust to address concerns about data sharing and release
Objective and description: Australia will build public trust around data sharing and release. We will do this by actively engaging with the public regarding how open data is being used to better communicate the benefits and understand public concerns, and we will improve privacy risk management capability across government.
Status Quo: In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, effective policy responses require investment in joined-up data that can provide a strong evidence-base for policy decisions. However, as the volume of data and technical capability to use it increases, we need to better inform the public about the risks and benefits of data sharing and release, and address public views and concerns, including attitudes towards privacy. It is essential that people’s privacy and personal information is protected in using and sharing data. In some cases it is not appropriate to publish or share certain datasets. The Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) underpins the open data agenda and helps build public trust in data-sharing activities, but there is a need to improve capacity within government agencies to manage privacy risks when releasing data. In October 2016 the Government introduced separate pieces of legislation to amend the Privacy Act to: • make it an offence to deliberately re-identify personal information from open government data; and • introduce mandatory data breach notification provisions requiring Australian Government agencies, private sector organisations and certain other entities regulated by the Privacy Act that suffer data breaches to notify individuals whose personal information has been compromised. Data literacy across the APS is also critical. In August 2016, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet released Data Skills and Capability in the Australian Public Service to help build skills and knowledge in publishing, linking and sharing public data. The Government will also improve whole of-government de identification processes by releasing guidance on publishing sensitive data. The Productivity Commission’s inquiry into data availability and use will also consider privacy safeguards and consumer rights over their data. The Government will respond to the recommendations in the Productivity Commission’s report and continue to work with the public to grow the social licence for data to empower citizens and increase transparency over government activities.
Ambition: To build trust about the use of integrated data and actively respond to public concerns about data sharing. To comply with international best practice on open data principles and participate in global fora on data.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of transparency and public participation by: • providing greater transparency on how government is using the data it collects and protecting personal information; • enabling the public to engage with government and raise issues of concern; • enabling experts outside of government to inform public debate; and • providing more targeted and effective policy, service delivery and program evaluation.
Commitment 2.3: Digitally transform the delivery of government services
Objective and description: Australia will continue to invest in digital technologies to make government services simpler, faster and cheaper, making it easier for the public to work and interact with government. We will do this by preparing a digital transformation roadmap, and establishing public dashboards to improve transparency around the performance of government services.
Status Quo: The Digital Transformation Agency is an executive agency within the Prime Minister’s portfolio. Its mission is to lead the transformation of government services to deliver a better experience for Australians. Innovative use of digital technologies supports the open government agenda, through the provision of faster, cheaper and more accessible government services. While some progress has been made, there is an opportunity to seize the benefits of the digital revolution to improve the way government interacts with the public. The Australian Government’s Digital Service Standard requires that services are designed to ensure accessibility to all users, regardless of their ability and environment. It requires that people who use the digital service can also use the other available channels (face-to-face and telephony) if needed, without repetition or confusion.
Ambition: To use digital technologies to promote transparency and public participation in government service delivery, engaging early and often with users throughout, so that government services meet the needs of the people who use them. The Digital Transformation Agency will work with government agencies to deliver a roadmap for the digital transformation of government services with clear milestones, including delivery timelines and key performance indicators. It will also continue to work with Australian Government agencies to use dashboards to transparently measure the performance of services as required under the Digital Service Standard., and which will be benchmarked against best practice in the private sector.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of technology and innovation and transparency by: • increasing public access to government services; • making government services more efficient and cheaper; and • increasing transparency around performance of government services.
Commitment 3.1: Information management and access laws for the 21st century
Objective and description: Australia will ensure our information access laws, policies and practices are modern and appropriate for the digital information age. As part of this, we will consider and consult on options to develop a simpler and more coherent framework for managing and accessing government information that better reflects the digital era, including the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), the Archives Act 1983 (Archives Act) and, where relevant, the Privacy Act 1988 (with primary focus on the Archives Act and FOI Act), which is supported by efficient and effective policies and practices.
Status Quo: In 2010, the Australian Government passed reforms to the FOI Act as part of a broader plan to improve transparency and to encourage public engagement in decision making. The 2010 reforms also included the introduction of the Information Publication Scheme, which requires agencies to provide a broad range of information on their websites, and amendments to the Archives Act to reduce the open access period for Commonwealth records from 30 to 20 years over a 10 year period. There have since been a number of reviews recommending changes to the FOI Act, including Dr Allan Hawke’s Review of Freedom of Information Laws and the Belcher Red Tape Review. Among other things, the Belcher Red Tape Review recommended the Attorney-General’s Department “begin work with relevant entities to scope and develop a simpler and more coherent legislative framework for managing and accessing government information during its life-cycle in a digital environment through staged reforms, commencing with legislation regulating archives.” The core frameworks of Australia’s information access laws (in particular the FOI Act and the Archives Act) have not been substantially altered since enacted in the early 1980s, when government operated in a paper-based environment. It is therefore appropriate to consider how access to government information is best managed into the future within the context of digital government. The implementation of Australia’s information access laws is overseen by the National Archives of Australia and the independent Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The Government is committed to ensuring the adequate resourcing of the OAIC to discharge its statutory functions, and provided funding for this purpose over the next four years in the 2016-17 Budget.
Ambition: To develop a simpler and more coherent legislative framework for managing and accessing government information within the context of digital government, supported by efficient and effective policies and practices.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information and public accountability by: • ensuring government information access laws are modern and capable of meeting the demands of the digital age; • increasing awareness of public access rights to government information; and • improving efficiency of processing access to information requests.
Commitment 3.2: Understand the use of Freedom of Information
Objective and description: Australia will better measure and improve our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws. We will do this by working with states and territories to develop uniform metrics on public use of freedom of information access rights, and by collecting and publishing this data.
Status Quo: The right of citizens to access government held information promotes transparency of government actions and decision making. The Commonwealth, states and territories collect data and produce statistics about applications to access government information in each jurisdiction. For example, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner currently releases statistics on access requests under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 through data.gov.au. Such information is important for measuring the effectiveness of freedom of information laws, including for benchmarking our performance internationally. However, the data collected is not uniform across jurisdictions, making it difficult to compare and analyse how freedom of information rights are used across the country. It is also varies in its consistency with international measurements of open government, including the World Justice Project’s Open Government Index. The development of consistent metrics aligned with the Open Government Index would assist in building a more complete picture of freedom of information rights in Australia and could help governments improve processing of information access requests. Metrics could include the type of applicant, application rates per capita, release rates, review rates and refusal rates.
Ambition: To facilitate an assessment of the effectiveness of Australia’s right to information laws across jurisdictions, and raise awareness about the public’s rights to access government information. This will improve understanding of the public’s utilisation of access rights, government processes and practices, and allow for international benchmarking, including against the World Justice Project’s Open Government Index
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information and public accountability by: • increasing awareness of public access rights to government information; • enabling comparison of freedom of information access rights across jurisdictions and internationally; and • improving freedom of information access practices and efficiency of processing access to information requests.
Commitment 3.3: Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data and information
Objective and description: Australia will make it easier for the public to find, access and use government data and information. We will do this by making greater use of central portals, digital platforms and other tools to improve discoverability and accessibility.
Status Quo: The creation, preservation, management and public use of government information is fundamental to open and transparent government. The availability of government records and data improves public access to information, while also driving efficient business outcomes by facilitating use and reuse of these valuable resources. It is not enough just to make these resources open; information and public data must be easy to find and accessible in order for it to be useful. The National Library of Australia’s ‘Trove’ is an example of a highly used and successful central portal. Some specific examples of areas where the government is seeking to improve public access to information include: • Public data: Data.gov.au is the Australian Government’s open data platform. It has enabled the open release of over 20,000 public resources used to grow the economy, improve service delivery and transform policy outcomes for the nation. As the number of datasets on data.gov.au grows, Australia’s public data infrastructure needs be upgraded to meet the demands of data users. This includes improving search and discovery, enhancing support for collaboration, developing a quality framework to assist publishers, and developing more robust publishing processes. • Grants: There is no central point to identify and apply for Australian Government grant opportunities and find consolidated information about grants awarded. The Department of Finance is building GrantConnect, a central whole-of-government system that will forecast and publish grant opportunities, automatically notify public users of grant opportunities of interest, and publish information on grants awarded. • Corporate and administrative reporting: Corporate and administrative reporting information is currently located on individual agency websites or in hard copy, making it difficult to compare and contrast documents. The Department of Finance is working to make reporting information more discoverable and accessible through the digitisation of this information. • Archived records: The most significant records of the Australian Government are held by the National Archives of Australia. To facilitate citizens’ access to these records through digital and online channels, the Archives will continue to lead the transition from paper to digital information practices in Australian Government agencies, digitise paper records of high research value and increase the number of records available for public access. • Environmental information: The Department of the Environment and Energy compiles significant data to produce its State of the Environment report and meet its other responsibilities (such as research into the impacts of coal and coal seam gas developments on ground water). The Department will make the State of the Environment 2016 report and its underlying data more accessible through SoE Digital (an innovative and interactive online platform) and data.gov.au. It will use data visualisation tools to help publish the results of its coal and coal seam gas bioregional assessments.
Ambition: To make it as easy as possible to find, access and use government information and data. This will include making greater use of centralised, easy to access portals for information (e.g. for grants, and corporate / administrative reporting),, proactively publishing more information and data online, and keeping up to date with the latest technological developments.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information and technology and innovation by: • promoting a consistent approach to information governance across Australian Government entities; • increasing transparency of government decision-making and policy development; • enabling information and data reuse for economic and social benefits; • protecting the rights and entitlements of Australians to access government information; • increasing the accessibility, usability and discoverability of public data; and • improving the quality of data.
Commitment 4.1: Confidence in the electoral system and political parties
Objective and description: To enhance integrity and confidence in Australia’s electoral system. We will do this by working with the Parliament and the public to investigate the conduct of the 2016 election, use of technology in elections and the framework of donations to political parties and other political entities.
Status Quo: The Government has asked Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JCSEM) to investigate a range of matters relating to the conduct of the 2016 federal election, with particular attention to: • the potential application of new technology to casting, scrutinising and counting votes, and whether current authorisations requirements could be applied to all forms of communication; and • donations to political parties and other political entities, including the extent of donations being received from foreign sources and the options available to Parliament to regulate these types of donations. JSCEM will also be asked to look at the current donations disclosure regime. A range of matters and areas for potential improvement were raised by civil society regarding this commitment during the public consultation period, particularly in regards to political donations. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has transmitted these civil society comments to the JSCEM for consideration as part of its inquiry.
Ambition: To ensure that public confidence in Australia’s electoral system continues to be strong.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of accountability, transparency and access to information by: • reducing the risk of undemocratic behaviour and conduct, which leads to the perception or reality of corrupt behaviour by politicians and political parties; and • increasing public confidence in Australian democracy.
Commitment 4.2: National Integrity Framework
Objective and description: Australia will strengthen its ability to prevent, detect and respond to corruption in the public sector. We will do this in collaboration with the corporate sector, non-government organisations, academia and the public, including by holding the first Government Business Roundtable on Anti-Corruption in 2017. We will review the jurisdiction and capabilities of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP)-led Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre (FACC) with the development of each National Action Plan to ensure they can focus on protecting Commonwealth agencies from risks of corruption.
Status Quo: The Australian Government takes tackling corruption seriously. We have strong laws and a robust, multi agency approach to combating corruption, under which a range of agencies play a role in preventing, detecting and responding to corruption (an approach the Government believes is preferable to creating an entirely new anti-corruption agency). Key agencies responsible for responding to public sector corruption include: • ACLEI, which is responsible for preventing, detecting and investigating corruption within the high-risk agencies within its jurisdiction. • The AFP-hosted FACC, which brings together a range of Commonwealth agencies to respond to serious fraud and corruption matters, including across Commonwealth services, programmes and employees. The Government provided an additional $15 million to the FACC in April 2016. In 2012, Australia was found fully compliant following a review of our implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Our next review under UNCAC is scheduled to occur in 2017-18. ACLEI’s jurisdiction was reviewed earlier this year by the Joint Committee on the ACLEI. The Committee recommended the Government extend ACLEI’s jurisdiction to include the entire Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and examine the feasibility of including the Australian Taxation Office. The Government is considering the recommendations.
Ambition: To aim to improve Australia’s score on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index by strengthening the Australian Government’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to bribery and corruption, and better communicating our national integrity framework. To achieve this, we will consult closely with industry, non-government organisations, academia and the public to ensure that our laws, policies and frameworks for responding to corruption are effective, including through holding the first Government Business Roundtable on Anti-Corruption in 2017. We will strengthen the national integrity framework as it applies to the public sector. This will include reviewing the jurisdiction and capabilities of ACLEI and FACC every two years with the development of Australia’s National Action Plans under OGP, and extending these on an as needs basis. We will also improve whistle-blower protections (see commitment 1.1).
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of public accountability by: • improving the effectiveness of our legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks; and • protecting the integrity and transparency of the execution of public policy and management.
Commitment 4.3: Open contracting
Objective and description: Australia will ensure transparency in government procurement and continue to support the Open Contracting Global Principles. As part of this, we will publicly review the Australian Government’s compliance with the Open Contracting Data Standard.
Status Quo: The Open Contracting Data Standard sets out key documents and data that should be published at each stage of government procurement and is seen as the international benchmark. The Standard enables disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the contracting process by defining a common data model. It was created to support organisations to increase contracting transparency, and allow deeper analysis of contracting data by a wide range of users. In line with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, Australian Government entities are required to report all procurement contracts with a value of $10,000 or more on AusTender. However, there has not been a formal assessment of the extent to which current practice meets the requirements of the Open Contracting Data Standard. At the UK Anti-Corruption Summit in May 2016, the Australian Government stated its support of the Open Contracting Data Standard and noted the role that the Standard could play in encouraging machine-readable open data formats across all areas of government.
Ambition: To enhance transparency and accountability of public money in delivering public contracts.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information and public accountability by demonstrating transparency and accountability in relation to the procurement of goods and services on behalf of the Government.
Commitment 5.1: Delivery of Australia’s Open Government National Action Plan
Objective and description: Australia will ensure that our Open Government National Action Plan is a platform for ongoing dialogue, collaboration and open government reform. We will do this by establishing a permanent dialogue mechanism with civil society, which includes a multi stakeholder forum and transparent reporting and accountability mechanisms. The multi-stakeholder forum will at a minimum track the implementation of commitments, ensure commitments continue to be relevant and ambitious, inform the drafting of future National Action Plans and raise awareness about open government in the broader community.
Status Quo: OGP countries are required to establish a multi-stakeholder forum to consult with the public and organisations outside of government on the implementation of the commitments included in their National Action Plan. Detailed guidance on establishing a multi-stakeholder forum is outlined in the OGP’s handbook. OGP countries have taken different approaches to establishing their multi-stakeholder forum. Some models adopted in other countries include: • Civil society network: Coalition of non-government organisations and individuals. • Single forum: Convenes government, the public and organisations outside of government in one formally established, central committee for co-ordination. • Hub-and-spoke: Network of smaller forums (broken down by sector, thematic area or commitments etc.), which may be coordinated by a central committee. The Government will work in partnership with civil society to determine the structure, role, governance and membership of the OGP multi stakeholder forum. It will also include reporting and accountability mechanisms, and procedures around decision-making. The Interim Working Group will continue as an oversight body for the implementation of this National Action Plan until the permanent multi-stakeholder forum is established. Membership of the forum will need to be broad given the diverse interests in open government. Stakeholders have noted through the public consultation that the existing Interim Working Group does not have representation from local government, the disability sector, privacy sector, Indigenous community, and industry/business groups. The forum will also need to facilitate broader engagement with the general public. It is also important that Australia’s commitments remain relevant and ambitious throughout the National Action Plan cycle. This will be achieved through ongoing review of milestones, with updates made (as necessary) in partnership with civil society. The Government will also work with the public to identify any additional commitments that could be included in the National Action Plan over the two year cycle.
Ambition: To identify, develop and implement ambitious open government commitments through ongoing partnership with civil society. This will include transparent reporting on progress of implementing commitments in this National Action Plan.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of public participation and accountability by: • ensuring commitments remain relevant and ambitious throughout the National Action Plan cycle; • keeping government accountable for the implementation of National Action Plan commitments; • raising awareness about the Open Government Partnership and open government matters in Australia and the region; and • ensuring participation by a broad and diverse range of organisations and the public in the development of National Action Plan commitments.
Commitment 5.2: Enhance public participation in government decision making
Objective and description: Australia will work towards improving public participation and engagement to enhance policy and service delivery outcomes for Australians. We will do this by establishing a new Australian Government framework for public participation and engagement.
Status Quo: Government is comprised of a diverse range of organisations, with approaches to participation varying considerably across different departments and agencies. High barriers to participation and piecemeal or unpredictable approaches to consultation can lead to an inefficient and dissatisfying experience. The current mechanisms for consultation often do not fully meet the Government’s practical requirements for policy and program development. In addition, current mechanisms can be ineffective in enabling ‘co-design’. Numerous reviews have highlighted scope for improvement in the way the Australian Public Service engages with the public when developing policies and programs. For example, Peter Shergold’s Learning from Failure recommended that “the APS should promote new forms of civil participation, including digital and deliberative democracy techniques, in order to enhance consumer-directed care, improve customer service, encourage greater public engagement and inform the public economy”. There is a need to identify and disseminate information on good practices and help peer exchange between government agencies and across different levels of government. Digital technologies also open up new opportunities for engagement and there are a range of innovative techniques that could be further explored at the Commonwealth level (e.g. policy hacks, online challenge platforms and citizen juries). In addition, there has been a lack of investment in social media and on-line tools relevant to public participation in government decision-making. The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 also requires Commonwealth entities to work cooperatively with others to achieve common objectives, where practicable.
Ambition: To design and adopt a whole-of-government framework that embeds meaningful, open, public and multi-stakeholder participation into the business of policy development and service delivery.
Relevance: This commitment will advance the OGP values of transparency, accountability and public participation by: • facilitating informed public participation; • improving policy development and service delivery; • enhancing transparency around government decision making; • encouraging an ongoing sharing of information and views across interest groups that builds consensus on broad policy directions; and • creating more engaged private and community sectors, and public.