Australia will sign onto the global pledge for a more transparent government by joining the Open Government Partnership, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced today.
The partnership, which currently has around 47 countries signatories including the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Norway, was launched in September 2011. Countries that sign onto the agreement have to pledge to put more information into the public domain and make it accessible to the public.
Dreyfus said that Australia "shares the values" of the partnership and experience to share with the other member nations.
He said that the government had moved to improve transparency since 2008 through the passage of reforms to Freedom of Information. In 2010, the government passed reforms that significantly reduced the cost of Freedom of Information requests, including the removal of application fees, and the removal of charges for people seeking access to their own personal information. Departments are still able to charge for more than five hours of decision making, and for other fees, meaning that some FOI requests still carry hefty charges in order to access that information.
The Australian government also established the data.gov.au website to store datasets, and it has moved to adopt Government 2.0 principles. Creative Commons also is now the default licencing agreement for government information.
Dreyfus indicated that the government would now commence work on a "National Action Plan" for open and transparent government.
"The plan will address one of the Open Government Partnership challenges of improving public services, increasing public integrity, effectively managing public resources, creating safer communities and increasing corporate accountability," he said in a statement.
"Membership of the Open Government Partnership will complement Australia’s leadership internationally in promoting democracy, transparency and good governance. It will also assist Australia to spread the values of transparency and accountability in our region."