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Australia

OGP NAP (AU0014)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Not Attached

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Support Institution(s): All Commonwealth entities, Non-government organisations (including Australian Open Government Civil Society Network), private sector, peak bodies (including Law Council of Australia) and the public

Policy Areas

OGP, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Australia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

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 decisionmaking. 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.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

14. Delivery of Australia’s Open Government Action Plan

Commitment Text:

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.

[…]

Milestones

  1. Establish the OGP multi stakeholder forum by partnering with civil society to determine its structure, role, governance and membership, including reporting and accountability mechanisms for this National Action Plan.
  2. Operation of the multi-stakeholder forum, with (at a minimum) the following responsibilities:
    1. inform the co-creation of future National Action Plans;
    2. track and report on implementation of National Action Plan commitments;
    3. facilitate broader community engagement and conduct awareness activities that foster informed participation, including face-to-face meetings and events; and
    4. document decisions and publish reports.
  3. Review the National Action Plan and update milestones and commitments (as necessary) to provide further clarity and ambition for plan.

Responsible institution: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Supporting institution(s): All Commonwealth entities, non-government organisations including Australian Open Government Civil Society Network), private sector, peak bodies (including Law Council of Australia) and the public

Start date: December 2016 End date: July 2018

Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text, see the Australia National Action Plan available at https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Australia_NAP_2016-2018_0.pdf

Context and Objectives

This commitment will establish a multi-stakeholder forum to oversee implementation and development of Australia’s national action plans.

Under the OGP Guidelines for Public Consultation on Country Commitments, countries ‘are to identify an existing or new forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation’.[1] The national action plan commits Australia to working with civil society to determine the appropriate structure, role, governance and membership of that forum. It also recognises the need for any forum to be sufficiently representative of the wide range of interests in open government and to facilitate broader engagement with the general public. Members of the interim working group, as well as a number of individuals and civil society organisations, were critical of the lack of representativeness of the participants in the development of the national action plan.[2]

The commitment is of medium specificity. The commitment sets out the role of civil society in establishing the forum and minimum responsibilities. However, it does not establish how civil society, or other sectors including the business or private sector, will be engaged as a partner in the forum’s development and ongoing role in monitoring and developing Australia’s open government commitments. Similarly ongoing reform of the role of the forum is not set out.

The forum is likely to have a moderate impact. As the development of Australia’s first national action plan demonstrates, there are a large number of individuals and groups interested in open government reforms who are reliant on ad hoc opportunities to participate in reform. The forum will present an ongoing opportunity for civil society groups and individuals to cooperate with government to ‘identify, develop and implement ambitious open government commitments’. Both the development and intended operation of the forum will allow civil society organisations and individuals interested in open government to contribute to developing commitments under the current and future national action plans, either through membership of the forum or through raising community awareness. The forum is also intended to provide for oversight of the implementation of action plan commitments. There is, however, no formal means of complaint or redress provided where agencies are identified as not meeting their OGP commitments other than through publication of reports. There are also no formal monitoring powers provided; under its terms of reference the forum will ‘receive regular updates on implementation of Australia’s Open Government Commitments, and be able to make requests for relevant information’ from the agencies involved.[3] The Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet (PM&C) provides secretariat and financial support for forum.

Completion

The consultation process leading up to development of the Open Government Forum is discussed above in section 3.4 Consultation During Implementation.[4]

Milestone 14.1: This milestone was fully implemented. A 15-week process to decide on the appointment and operation of the forum, now referred to as the Open Government Forum, began in April 2017. It consisted of inviting submissions on a proposal put forward by the interim working group established as part of the development of the national action plan, a Twitter Q&A session and a public information session (parts of which were livestreamed online) held in Melbourne.[5]

As a result of that consultation process and recommendations put forward by the interim working group, the co-chairs of the interim working groups opened a call for nominations for civil society positions on the Forum on 8 June 2017.[6] A selection panel, consisting of the co-chairs of the interim working group and a member of civil society put forward by the interim working group, considered 25 nominations on the basis of:

  • their demonstrated support of OGP’s vision and the Open Government
    Declaration
  • their expertise relevant to the Open Government Partnership, including
    existing or probable future Australian Open Government commitments
  • their ability to engage broad and diverse community networks
  • their previous experience working with and influencing government
  • the desirability of maintaining some continuity between successive Forums,
    balanced with the desirability of reaching new communities and reflecting
    emerging open government priorities.[7]

Appointments to the Forum were announced on 21 July 2017 and the first meeting was held on 28 July 2017.[8] The Forum consists of representatives from eight government agencies and eight members from civil society, and is co-chaired. Ten male and six female members were appointed, including at least one with an indigenous heritage.[9] The members drawn from civil society act in a variety of capacities in non-government organisations as well as being individuals with an interest in areas related to open government. A non-voting jurisdictional member, the current New South Wales Information Commissioner, was also invited to participate in the Forum. Four of the six civil society members of the interim working group were appointed to the Forum. In addition, the government agencies represented in the interim working group, with the addition of a representative from the Digital Transformation Agency, continued to be represented on the Forum.

The Forum expects to meet approximately every two months. The meetings will be held in Canberra although they may be held in other locations with provision for online participation. The Forum may also live-stream important proceedings and trial other methods of engagement.

Milestone 14.2 saw limited implementation during the period under consideration. One of the purposes of the Forum is to monitor implementation of the national action plan, including assessing and reporting on progress.[10] As part of this process the first meeting included representatives of government agencies with responsibility for commitments under the action plan. The PM&C also established an online dashboard to record progress towards each of the commitment milestones. The dashboard, which was made publicly available after the first meeting of the Forum,[11] allows for public comments on each of the commitments. PM&C intends to update this dashboard every two months in conjunction with a meeting of the Forum.[12]

The Forum also has purposes related to developing future national action plans, including facilitating broad community engagement and raising awareness about open government generally, as well as seeking to improve government institutions through enhanced transparency, policy development, service delivery and decision making.[13]

The development of the Forum was delayed beyond its original start date of March 2017, with the first meeting of the Forum not being held until 28 July 2017, and the next meeting not planned until October 2017. The agenda and other papers considered by the Forum at their first meeting[14] and minutes from that meeting[15] were made available on the government OGP website.

Interviews with PM&C suggest that, in part, the delay in establishing the Forum was due to a more extensive form of consultation and selection process then was originally envisaged.[16] Most civil society representatives interviewed for this report commented favourably on the consultation process leading up to establishment of the Forum, subject to the concerns that further steps could have been taken to increase awareness of the process.[17]

The Open Government Forum which has been formed under this commitment largely replicates the composition of the Interim Working Group established as part of the development of the national action plan, with some additional government and civil society members. Some individuals interviewed indicated that the establishment of the Forum gave rise to many of the same concerns as the establishment and operation of the Interim Working Group – namely that awareness of the development of the Forum was limited, as established it fails to reflect a broad range of interests, particularly those not directly concerned with open government in itself rather than broader community needs, and that its ability to influence government decision making and to increase public awareness of the OGP process is therefore limited.

Although the Forum has no formal authority to influence implementation of the national action plan, its membership includes high-level representatives, including at the Deputy Secretary level,[18] from the government agencies most directly responsible for implementing the commitments. The responsibility for increasing public awareness remains largely with the non-government members of the Forum, even though they have been appointed in their individual capacities rather than as representatives of any organisation or range of interests. Most people interviewed commented favourably on the individuals, both from government and non-government, who are members of the Forum and the range of expertise and interests they represented. According to a CSO stakeholder interviewed, the frequency and duration of meetings, however, as well as questions over the resources available to support the work of the Forum, may limit its capacity to achieve its broader objectives of raising awareness and ensuring the ambition of current and future commitments.[19]

Milestone 14.3: was not started during the period under review.

Early Results (if any)

The delay in establishing the Forum has meant that there is limited evidence of its influence so far. Some government agencies interviewed for this report commented on the role of the Interim Working Group in influencing implementation of other commitments. In particular, the Interim Working Group’s guidance for agencies, which was also adopted by the Forum in its first meeting,[20] has influenced the scope of consultation engaged in as part of other commitments under the national action plan, or as helping to raise awareness of the OGP process within government. In interviews in preparing this report, most representatives from agencies responsible for implementing commitments indicated that they had seen the guidelines or otherwise were aware of the ongoing role of the Interim Working Group (now the Forum).

Next Steps

The Forum, apart from being an important element of Australia’s commitments to OGP, promises to fulfil an important role in bringing together government and civil society. The functions and operation of the Forum should continue to develop as it meets over the remainder of this action plan cycle and begins work on the next action plan. While that development need not be reflected in a commitment in the next action plan, consideration could be given to:

  • Enhancing the ability of non-government members of the Forum to increase awareness of open government initiatives and benefits and to reflect a broader range of interests in the OGP process. This could be achieved by involving Forum members in consultation or collaborative processes being engaged in by government agencies under both existing commitments and other developments.
  • Developing a greater role for the Forum in coordinating open government efforts, either as reflected in the national action plan or more generally, including:
    • Identifying opportunities and potential benefits of increased cooperation or coordination between government agencies and civil society groups in fulfilling existing commitments;
    • Representation on other consultation forums or coordination bodies within government.
  • Clarifying the role of government representatives of the Forum in raising awareness of open government initiatives beyond the individual commitments in question, including bringing together views from other government departments that are not directly represented on the Forum.
  • Developing links with open government initiatives by State and Territory Governments, perhaps by convening an annual meeting between Forum members and representatives from those governments.
  • Working with government at the federal, state and local levels to raise the capacity of civil society groups to engage on open government initiatives.

[1] Open Government Partnership: Articles of Governance, June 2012 (Updated March 2014 and April 2015), Addendum C, p 19. https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/OGP_Articles-Gov_Apr-21-2015.pdf

Ken Coghill, Monash University and Accountability Round Table, Canberra, ACT, 28 July 2017; Kat Szuminska, Director, Open Australia Foundation[2] and member, Open Government Forum, Phone meeting, 11 September 2017; Open forum, Sydney, 22 August 2017; Open Forum, Melbourne, 24 August 2017; Anonymous, Open government advocate, phone meeting, 30 August 2017.

[3] The terms of reference for the forum are available at https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2017/08/item_1c_-_open_government_forum_terms_of_reference.docx (accessed 9/4/2018).

[4] See page 21.

[5] PM&C, ‘Establishing Australia's first Multi-stakeholder Forum: Three ways to have your say’, 1 May 2017, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/2017/05/01/establishing-australias-first-multistakeholder-forum-three-ways-have-your-say.

[7] These criteria were made publicly available in the call for nominations: PM&C, Join Australia’s first Open Government Forum, 8 June 2017, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/2017/06/08/join-australias-first-open-government-forum.

[9] The selection process included notice that each gender would make up at least 40 per cent of positions on the Forum, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and young people were particularly encouraged to apply.

[10] PM&C, Australia’s Open Government Forum, available from PM&C, Join Australia’s first Open Government Forum, 8 June 2017, at p 3, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/2017/06/08/join-australias-first-open-government-forum.

[11] The dashboard is available on the home page of the ogpau website: https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/.

[12] Interview with PM&C, Canberra ACT, 8 September 2017.

[13] PM&C, Australia’s Open Government Forum, available from PM&C, Join Australia’s first Open Government Forum, 8th June 2017, at p 3, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/2017/06/08/join-australias-first-open-government-forum.

[16] Interview with PM&C, Canberra ACT, 8 September 2017.

[17] Open forum, Sydney, 22 August 2017; Open Forum, Melbourne, 24 August 2017; Peter Timmins, Access to information advocate and Convener, Australian Open Government Partnership Network, Sydney NSW, 23 August 2017; Anonymous, Open Government advocate, Phone meeting, 30 August 2017; Beth Slatyer, Canberra Alliance for Participatory Democracy, Canberra ACT, 6 September 2017

[18] Membership includes Deputy Secretaries from PM&C, Attorney-General’s Department, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and Department of Finance, Division head from Treasury, the Chief Digital Officer of the DTA, Chief Information Governance Officer from National Archives, and the Australian Information Commissioner.

[19] Peter Timmins, Access to information advocate and Convener, Australian Open Government Partnership Network, Sydney NSW, 23 August 2017; Anonymous, Open Government advocate, Phone meeting, 30 August 2017.

[20] Interim Working Group guidance for agencies in implementing OGP commitments, May 2017 https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2017/07/item_4a_-_guidance_in_implementing_commitments.docx


Commitments

  1. Strengthen Anti-Corruption Framework

    AU0016, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  2. Political Donation Transparency

    AU0017, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  3. Data Sharing

    AU0018, 2018, E-Government

  4. Improve Public Service Practice

    AU0019, 2018, Capacity Building

  5. Access to Information

    AU0020, 2018, OGP

  6. Enhance Public Engagement Skills in the Public Service

    AU0021, 2018, Capacity Building

  7. Independent Review of the Australian Public Service

    AU0022, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. Expand Open Contracting

    AU0023, 2018, E-Government

  9. Whiste-Blower Protections

    AU0001, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  10. Beneficial Ownership Transparency

    AU0002, 2016, Beneficial Ownership

  11. Extractive Industries Transparency

    AU0003, 2016, Beneficial Ownership

  12. Combating Corporate Crime

    AU0004, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  13. Data Innovation

    AU0005, 2016, E-Government

  14. Public Trust in Data Sharing

    AU0006, 2016, Capacity Building

  15. Digitization of Government Services

    AU0007, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Information Management and Access Laws

    AU0008, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Freedom of Information

    AU0009, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Access to Government Data

    AU0010, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Electoral System and Political Parties

    AU0011, 2016, Money in Politics

  20. National Integrity Framework

    AU0012, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  21. Open Contracting

    AU0013, 2016, Capacity Building

  22. OGP NAP

    AU0014, 2016, OGP

  23. Public Participation

    AU0015, 2016, Capacity Building