20 July 2012

Today’s post on the Open and Shut blog implies that there is method in the lack of interest shown by Australia towards the Open Government Partnership. The assessment is that this reflects the unwillingness of China to become involved.  Open and Shut , which seems to advocate membership of the OGP,  suggests that Australia and New Zealand should be showing leadership in a region where government transparency is generally lacking.

New Zealand appears content in its own progress to open government.  There is little motivation to pose for the media as many of the 55 signatories to the Open Government Initiative are wont to do. Contributors to the GOVIS conference last month demonstrated real  initiatives taken by a cross section of New Zealand agencies rather than the national posturing of many of the very untransparent administrations that took part in the OGP conference in Brasilia earlier this year.

The reality probably is that Australia, like New Zealand, is indifferent.  New Zealand will do its own thing. It has an Open Government Declaration wholly unconnected with the international initiative. The suggestion (again on Open and Shut some months ago) that a lack of interest in the OGP was related to concern about the Transpacific Partnership is itself too conspiratorial. The likely explanation is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had more promising priorities than the April talk fest in Brazil.

The Brasilia meeting began energetically with a blog set up to stimulate discussion about the event and engender continuing awareness of open government issues. Despite thousands of alleged enthusiasts for open government, participation in OGP communications suggest that it is an uphill struggle to maintain interest.   A Washington conference last week stimulated another burst of interest, but that too will inevitably fade.

The action plans recently developed by OGP member states to give effect to give substantive change were reported to be uninspiring. This may confirm the suspicions of the Economist last year that the OGP is just another international talking shop. – despite the involvement of “civil society” as a stimulus for real action.