Towards more open and accountable government In its March 2010 report, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) laid down principles for the enhancement of democracy in Australia through greater collaboration with the public.10 Chapter 4 of the report, “Creating more open government”, notes that the Australian Public Service lags behind international peers in the provision of online access to government information and services and in incorporating external advice into the policy development and service design process. The report sets out a vision: An Australian Public Service that captures ideas and expertise through the transformative effect of technology by: • Citizens directly communicating their views and expertise to government through multiple channels, including Web 2.0 approaches (for example, online policy forums and blogs) • Greater disclosure of public sector data and mechanisms to access the data so that citizens can use the data to create helpful information for all, in line with privacy and secrecy principles • Citizens becoming active participants involved in government, rather than being passive recipients of services and policies. The strategy for this would be through PM&C and the Department of Finance and Deregulation to develop new mechanisms for collaboration and consultation with the community, including the release of public sector data in line with privacy, copyright and national security laws. There are also plans to further develop the website data.gov.au.
Cartoon by Phil Somerville
The Media Alliance believes that the criminalisation of information is inimical to good government in a modern democracy. The recommendations of the ALRC report: Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia should be implemented as a matter of urgency. It is time for the federal government to deliver on its Declaration of Open Government, as pledged by then finance minister Lindsay Tanner: “The Australian government now declares that, in order to promote greater participation in Australia’s democracy, it is committed to open government based on a culture of engagement, built on better access to and use of government-held information, and sustained by the innovative use of technology.”