Following on from our letter to Senator Mitch Fifield, ART writes to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull to urge urgent action to join the Open Government Partnership before the 27th of October deadline.  We argue, “To put it bluntly, our dealings with Ministers and Departments in the Abbott Government have led us to believe that the Government, as then constituted, was incapable of pursuing the nation’s self-interest in joining, but was reluctant to say so publicly. We found this attitude incomprehensible, as there was absolutely no downside to joining. Further much public face was lost in not joining. As a result of its chain-dragging, Australia’s reputation has already been damaged.”

Read the full text of the letter below.


 

Hon Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister

PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Prime Minister

AUSTRALIA’S RESPONSE TO THE INVITATION TO JOIN THE OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP: URGENT ACTION NEEDED TO SAVE AUSTRALIA’S REPUTATION

I write as Chair of the Accountability Round Table. We are a non-partisan group. Our objectives are to promote integrity in public life including transparency in government. I enclose an extract from the Home Page of our website outlining our objectives and including a list of our directors.

For some considerable time we have been urging the Government to take the necessary steps to join as an active member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to which we were invited by the US and UK Governments in 2011. The Partnership is a collaboration of over 60 countries committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been a powerful promoter of the Partnership, as was SBY, the former President of Indonesia.

The then Australian Government accepted the invitation to join in May 2013, in what was seen as a non-controversial, non-partisan issue. Since then there has been a failure to proceed with the application (in particular a failure to produce the required action plan).

To put it bluntly, our dealings with Ministers and Departments in the Abbott Government have led us to believe that the Government, as then constituted, was incapable of pursuing the nation’s self-interest in joining, but was reluctant to say so publicly. We found this attitude incomprehensible, as there was absolutely no downside to joining. Further much public face was lost in not joining. As a result of its chain-dragging, Australia’s reputation has already been damaged. Evidence of this is in the minutes of the OGP Steering Committee leading up to the next OGP Summit in Mexico, beginning on 27 October 2015:

“The case of Australia was particularly concerning, and the Steering Committee agreed on next steps and a deadline for Australia to recommit to OGP by the time of the Global Summit.”

We believe that whilst Australia will not have time to meet the requirements for membership in time for the October Summit, it will be important to make it clear before the Summit that the attitude of the Government has changed, that it understands the economic and good government benefits of open government and that the Government will be making every effort to meet the requirements for OGP membership as soon as possible.

Australia’s reputation is at stake. With a simple instruction you can save it.

Yours sincerely

 

Hon. Tim Smith QC

Chair, Accountability Round Table