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Australia

Public Participation (AU0015)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Australia National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Support Institution(s): All Commonwealth entities (including the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission) Research sector, non-government organisations (including Australian Open Government Partnership Network, IAP2 and the Australasian Facilitators Network), private sector and the public

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Open Regulations, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

IRM Report: Australia End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Australia Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

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. COMMITMENT DETAILS: OGP Grand Challenge Improving Public Services; Timeframes Late 2016 – July 2018; Lead agency Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; Other actors involved Government: All Commonwealth entities (including the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission); Non-government: Research sector, non-government organisations (including Australian Open Government Partnership Network, IAP2 and the Australasian Facilitators Network), private sector and the public

IRM Midterm Status Summary

15. Enhance public participation in government decision making

Commitment Text:

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.

[…]

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.

Milestones:

15.1 Undertake and publicly release a stocktake of current approaches to public participation to determine best practice activities (including international and domestic examples, user experience research, methodologies to encourage adoption, and relevant standards, such as IAP2 values).

15.2 Work with government agencies, the public and organisations outside of government to develop and implement a whole-of-government framework (with guidance / principles and potential public participation initiatives) for improving public participation and engagement across the Commonwealth.

15.3 Undertake pilot public participation initiatives, including working with the Digital Transformation Agency to more effectively use digital channels for engagement.

15.4 Review processes and iterate as necessary.

Responsible institution: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Supporting institution(s): Various

Start date: Late 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_201...

Context and Objectives

Consultation practices in the Commonwealth government in the past have varied widely between, and even within, agencies. The aim of this commitment is to design a best-practice framework for public consultation that could be widely adopted.

There are limited formal obligations on Commonwealth agencies to engage in public consultation or otherwise encourage public participation in development and implementation of government policy. The Legislation Act 2003 requires ‘appropriate’ and ‘reasonably practicable’ consultation before legislative instruments – i.e. formal legal instruments made under authority of primary legislation which have a general rather than individual effect – are made.[1] The form of consultation is not spelled out, though there is reference to the extent the consultation draws on expertise, and provides opportunities for people likely to be affected. This is done for example through general notification through advertisement and an opportunity to make submissions or participate in public hearings. Any consultation has to be described in the explanatory statement accompanying registration of the instrument. However, inadequate or even a complete lack of consultation does not affect the validity or enforceability of the instrument.[2] Forms of public consultation are also expected in other circumstances, including in the preparation of regulatory impact statements as part of policy proposals with a measureable impact on business, community organisations or individuals, [3] or to comply with the Australian Government’s Digital Service Standard,[4] which applies to new, redesigned or high volume public-facing Government services. In addition to these general requirements, individual agencies may also have their own standards or guides to consultation. This means that, in practice, there are a variety of consultation approaches taken in developing policy and services.

In interviews for this report, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science described the objectives of this commitment as increasing the understanding of the benefits of public participation within the public service, improving the capacity of agencies to engage in best practice consultation processes, and reducing the complexity involved in designing and implementing a consultation process.[5] Implementing the commitment will provide examples of the benefits different forms of participation have made to policy design and implementation, and identify, and make recommendations to reduce, the impediments to adoption of best practice public consultation practices within government agencies.

The Commitment is therefore relevant to the OGP value of civic participation. It also seeks to increase public information on consultation processes used across government, including at the State, Territory and local government levels, and is therefore relevant to access to information. However, the scope and steps to implementation of the commitment are not clearly set out in the commitment text. The extent to which the whole-of-government framework would go beyond existing requirements and guidance relating to consultation processes is not set out. Importantly, the process of adoption of the framework is also not clear. Discussions with the Department suggest that a best practice consultation framework will be developed and implemented within the Department to demonstrate its value and encourage wider adoption, rather than to seek to have adoption mandated.

A framework which is adopted across government and does lead to adoption of best practice methods for public consultation and engagement could have a moderate potential impact in increasing public participation. However, the current range of informal requirements and guides relating to consultation and the lack of plans to require the adoption of any framework developed through this commitment could limit the framework in practice.

Completion

Milestone 15.1 was not started during the implementation period under review. A working draft of the discover phase report was publicly released after the period of implementation under consideration, on 14 July 2017.[6] However, while this draft includes a discussion of the role of public participation, elements of community engagement, the role of technology and some initial hypotheses of what is limiting participation practices among government agencies, it does not include a stocktake of current practices and other elements including insights or themes of user experience research.

Interviews with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science[7] indicate that this draft report and other work on the commitment has involved interviews with approximately 38 APS staff from 13 Commonwealth government agencies, as well as meetings with South Australian, Victorian and New South Wales government agencies. Outside of government, discussions were held with 36 people across 34 organisations in five different states and territories. A survey on engagement approaches, potential improvements and barriers to co-design was responded to by 13 government departments. A literature review of 67 sources was also publicly released on 10 August 2017. The extent and complexity of this research has delayed the release of the stocktake of current practices within the timetable set out in the commitment. Therefore, there was work done in undertaking the stocktake of current approaches for the purposes of Milestone 15.1 but the results of this work were not publicly available at the time of writing.

Milestone 15.2 saw limited completion during the implementation period under review. As indicated above, the draft report includes the initial elements of a framework for improving public participation and engagement based in part on interviews with government agencies and non-government bodies. The discover phase report was released in December 2017, along with a number of workshops and presentations.[8] This report will be commented on in the end-of-term report.

Milestones 15.3 and 15.4 were not started as they derive from milestone 15.2. However, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, in interviews for this report, also indicated that the design of the framework will inform development of a platform that digitally enables community engagement in policy, program and service design that was recently funded through the Department’s Business Research and Innovation Initiative.[9] Two organisations were provided with nearly $1million each to develop proof of concept prototypes, which will be included as demonstrations for the framework process.[10] When developed, the platforms will contribute to milestone 3.

There are no early results for the implementation period under review.

Next Steps

A framework which can be used to assist agencies improve public participation and engagement to enhance policy and service delivery outcomes is currently only at an early stage of development. The IRM researcher recommends that the extent to which there is whole-of-government support for such an initiative needs to be demonstrated through a greater public commitment to the process or further integration into whole-of-government processes. The process by which the framework will be evaluated and adopted beyond the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science could also be made clearer.


[3] PM&C, The Australian Government Guide to Regulation, https://www.pmc.gov.au/node/108777.

[4] Digital Service Standard, https://www.dta.gov.au/standard/

[5] Interview with Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Canberra ACT, 6 September 2017.

[7] Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Canberra ACT, 6 September 2017.

[9] Australian OGP Commitment Dashboard, Commitment 5.2, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/52-enhancing-public-participation-go... (accessed 9/4/2018).

[10] DIIS, Business Research and Innovation Initiative - Proof of concept grant recipients, https://www.business.gov.au/Assistance/Business-Research-and-Innovation-Initiative/Proof-of-concept-grant-recipients.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 15. Enhance public participation in government decision making

Commitment Text:

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.

[…]

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.

Milestones:

1 ........ Undertake and publicly release a stocktake of current approaches to public participation to determine best practice activities (including international and domestic examples, user experience research, methodologies to encourage adoption, and relevant standards, such as IAP2 values).

2......... Work with government agencies, the public and organisations outside of government to develop and implement a whole-of-government framework (with guidance / principles and potential public participation initiatives) for improving public participation and engagement across the Commonwealth.

3......... Undertake pilot public participation initiatives, including working with the Digital Transformation Agency to more effectively use digital channels for engagement.

4......... Review processes and iterate as necessary.

Responsible institution: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Supporting institution(s): Various

Start date: Late 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/sites/default/files/Australia_NAP_2016-2018_0.pdf.

Commitment Aim:

The aim of this commitment was to design a best-practice framework for public consultation that could be widely adopted by Commonwealth government agencies, increasing the understanding of the benefits of public participation within the public service, improving the capacity of agencies to engage in best practice consultation processes, and reducing the complexity involved in designing and implementing a consultation process.

Status

Midterm: Limited

This commitment had limited completion by the midterm of the national action plan. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science held interviews with more than 70 government agency staff and non-government organisations across five different states and territories. The Department released a working draft of a Discover Phase Report, including some initial feedback on that consultation, on 14 July 2017, including initial elements of a framework for improving public participation. [205] The Department publicly released a literature review on 10 August 2017. [206] For more information see the midterm Progress Report.

End of term: Substantial

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science released a Discover Phase Report, including a stocktake of current approaches to public participation (milestone 1), in December 2017. [207] The Discover Phase Report identifies various problems that arise from a lack of effective government engagement with the expertise and experience available in the community. It reflects on the extensive interviews and literature review carried out by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science to suggest why more meaningful forms of engagement are not always adopted, and sets out various design questions which will be used in developing the engagement framework.

Based on the Discover Phase Report, the project team led a series of ‘ideation workshops’, which generated ideas on how to improve public participation. [208] The Department claims that nearly 100 public servants and members of the public attended across four different workshops. [209] Those ideas were then synthesised into 17 concepts, [210] which were tested in a further series of eight workshops attended by 70 Australian Public Service (APS) staff and members of the public, [211] as well as the Department’s online deliberation platform where staff could leave comments and ratings. [212]

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science publicly released a prototype framework in February 2018, [213] along with feedback on the workshops used to test the concepts. The prototype outlines objectives and guiding principles that should underlie public engagement and a set of standards on what is required to effectively engage the public. It also provides for establishment of networks and marketplaces to facilitate establishing, discovering, and sharing relevant expertise and experience. The prototype calls for a virtual ‘Hub’ to be established to bring together elements of the framework and act as a platform between the Australian Public Service and civil society. It would utilise digital platforms including engagement planning and management tools being developed as part of the Business Research Innovation Initiative (BRII) Challenge. [214] The prototype therefore represents a first draft of a framework as set out in milestone 2, with further consultation and public pilot testing (as provided in milestone 3) to inform further development.

Note that milestone 3 was changed to working with BRII Challenges rather than the Digital Transformation Agency on the public dashboard for the first national action plan, to better reflect the original intention and ongoing nature of the commitment. [215]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did not change

Civic Participation: Major

In relation to access to information, this commitment has compiled information on other practices and initiatives developed across the Australia Public Service (APS) and in other jurisdictions, including a detailed literature review. There is no evidence at this stage, however, that this commitment has led to an increase in information not related to development of the framework. Therefore, there was no change in government practice in this area. [216]

The commitment has had a major effect in increasing civic participation. Development of the prototype framework included a large number of interviews over a number of different phases with Australian Public Service staff and other government and private parties to identify risks and challenges in improving engagement with the public. The government made public all information collected during the development of the framework, including drafts to comment at the different stages of development. The workshops and other consultation activities generated information to be used in the project and provided feedback on the process adopted in developing the framework.

Peter Timmins, Interim Convener of the Australian Open Government Partnership Network, suggested that the framework represents a significant contribution to understanding some of the impediments to increasing consultation in the Commonwealth public sector and develops practical ways to improve. Its ambition for whole-of-government change will, however, be difficult to achieve without greater ministerial support. [217] In describing feedback from members of the Australian Open Government Partnership Network, Timmins suggested that the commitment has taken an open approach at all stages, including publication of research findings. [218]

Carried Forward?

The second national action plan includes a commitment to enhance public engagement skills in the public service. This commitment includes establishing a virtual hub as outlined in the prototype framework developed under the first national action plan. [219] The new commitment will also provide for Australia to take a leading role in development of an Open Dialogue Roadmap as part of the OGP’s Deliberative Processes Practice Group, building on the case studies and interviews in developing the framework. The roadmap has also been included in the agenda for the policy, data, and innovation stream of the Australian Public Service Reform Committee, established by various department secretaries and government agency heads. [220]

The second national action plan also includes a commitment to engage Australians in the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service. [221] Participation in that review will be informed by the findings underlying the prototype framework, and may utilise technology platforms developed as part of the BRII challenge.

[205] Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Draft discover phase report, 14 July 2017, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52. [206] Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Literature Review Database, 10 August 2017, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52. [207] Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Hidden in Plain Sight: Building an understanding of how the Australian Public Service can unlock community expertise to improve policy, programmes and service delivery, 2017, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52. [208] A description of the ideas generated in the workshops is included in Department of Industry, Science and Innovation, Workshop feedback, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52. [209] Department of Industry, Science and Innovation, Prototype Report: Unlocking community expertise to improve policy, programme and service delivery, 2018 p 4, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52. [210] Department of Industry, Science and Innovation, Open Government National Action Plan Commitment 5.2: Concepts, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52. [211] Department of Industry, Science and Innovation, Prototype Report: Unlocking community expertise to improve policy, programme and service delivery, 2018 p 4, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52 [212] Department of Industry, Science and Innovation, Getting the public more involved in the public service’s work, https://engage.industry.gov.au/getting-the-public-more-involved-in-the-public-service2019s-work. [213] Department of Industry, Science and Innovation, Prototype Report: Unlocking community expertise to improve policy, programme and service delivery, 2018 p 4, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18-commitment-52. [214] Information on the BRII, https://www.business.gov.au/assistance/business-research-and-innovation-initiative. [215] Email from Damian Carmichael, Department of Industry, Science and Innovation, 13 November 2018; see PM&C, 5.2 - Enhancing public participation in government decision making, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/australias-first-open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18/nap1-commitment-17 [216] Email from Damian Carmichael, Department of Industry, Science and Innovation, 13 November 2018. [217] Peter Timmons, Interim Convener, Australian Open Government Partnership Network, telephone interview, 14 November 2018. [218] Australian Open Government Partnership Civil Society Network, Hope and disappointment: Progress on Implementation of Australia’s National Action Plan, https://opengovernment.org.au/2018/02/11/hope-and-disapointment-progress-on-implementation-of-australias-national-action-plan/. [219] PM&C, Open Government Partnership Australia, Enhance public engagement skills in the public service, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/australias-second-open-government-national-action-plan-2018-20/enhance-public-engagement (accessed 29/9/2018). [220] For more information on the APS Reform Committee see Australian Public Service Commission, APS Reform Committee focuses on modernising the public sector, https://www.apsc.gov.au/aps-reform-committee-focusses-modernising-public-sector. [221] PM&C, Open Government Partnership Australia, Engage Australians in the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service, https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/commitment/australias-second-open-government-national-action-plan-2018-20/engage-australians (accessed 29/9/2018).

Commitments

  1. Strengthen Anti-Corruption Framework

    AU0016, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  2. Political Donation Transparency

    AU0017, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  3. Data Sharing

    AU0018, 2018, Access to Information

  4. Improve Public Service Practice

    AU0019, 2018, Capacity Building

  5. Access to Information

    AU0020, 2018, Access to Information

  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, Access to Information

  9. Whiste-Blower Protections

    AU0001, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  10. Beneficial Ownership Transparency

    AU0002, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  11. Extractive Industries Transparency

    AU0003, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  12. Combating Corporate Crime

    AU0004, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  13. Data Innovation

    AU0005, 2016, Access to Information

  14. Public Trust in Data Sharing

    AU0006, 2016, Access to Information

  15. Digitization of Government Services

    AU0007, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Information Management and Access Laws

    AU0008, 2016, Access to Information

  17. Freedom of Information

    AU0009, 2016, Access to Information

  18. Access to Government Data

    AU0010, 2016, Access to Information

  19. Electoral System and Political Parties

    AU0011, 2016, Political Integrity

  20. National Integrity Framework

    AU0012, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  21. Open Contracting

    AU0013, 2016, Access to Information

  22. OGP NAP

    AU0014, 2016, Public Participation

  23. Public Participation

    AU0015, 2016, Capacity Building

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