Declaration of open government imminent

Senator Kate Lundy reveals that the Australian Government would soon declare itself open

The Federal Government will soon act on one of the Government 2.0 Taskforce's central recommendation in declaring an open government, according to Labour Senator, Kate Lundy.

Speaking at the Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington D.C. this week, Lundy said the Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig, and Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, would soon announce the declaration of open government on behalf of the Australian Government.

Spokespeople for both Ludwig and Tanner were unable to confirm a date for the declaration.

The Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0 report released by the Government 2.0 Taskforce in December last year stated that a declaration of open government at the highest level was "integral to the Government’s objectives including public sector reform, innovation and using the national investment in broadband to achieve an informed, connected and democratic community". According to the report, the declaration would ensure that:

  • Technology would be central to citizen engagement and collaboration in making policy and providing service;
  • Public sector information would be released under licence to contribute to a healthy democracy;
  • Online engagement by public servants is enabled and encouragement, involving professional discussion in both the workplace and as private citizen.

"This builds on the leadership reflected in the legislative amendments to the Freedom of Information Act and new Information Commissioner Act which finally passed the Australian Senate on May 13, 2010," Lundy said.

As part of the Information Commission Act, Australian National University (ANU) legal lecturer and former Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, was appointed as independent Information Commissioner Designate to promote pro-disclosure across government and ensure correct implementation of Government information policy reforms.

According to Lundy, the position would also serve to "advise government on policy and practices regarding the collection, use, disclosure, management, administration, storage and accessibility of information held by the Government and systems or proposed systems for these activities".

“There will be an irreversible change in government culture," McMillan said in a statement regarding his appointment. "The ground rules for information disclosure and publication are being rewritten.”

Lundy said the combination of a declaration of open government and the new information policy reforms would encourage transparency and political accountability amongst government agencies.

In her speech, Lundy championed the use of the Internet as "the prime catalyst for the next big step for democracy" and key to establishing what she championed as the three pillars of Government 2.0: democratising data, citizen-centric services and participatory democracy.

The Government has already begun enacting on the core recommendations of the Government 2.0 Taskforce report, including moving Government data to a Creative Commons by attribution license. These include census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, all data sets on the website, the 2010/2011 Federal Budget and the Australian Parliament House website once it is relaunched in October.

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