Labour have released their open government policy. Readers may recall I attended one of their open meetings discussing what could go into the policy.
There is quite a lot of good stuff in the policy, but first I need to point out the huge wriggle room they have left. The policy is more a “we may do this” than “we will do this”:
The draft principles set out above are an ideal-world and ambitious charter for driving change in the practices of government at all levels.
Implementing policy that gives effect to such principles can only happen incrementally over time.
Even so, Labour acknowledges that the changes this policy sets out are challenging to some parts of government, and to the existing operational approach of the public sector.
That is why a carefully considered implementation is important, with ample time for public debate on the principles, and consultation and reflection before any changes are made.
I thought the consultation and public debate had already happened. Wasn’t that the point of the exercise?
Labour will produce a comprehensive “Open Government Charter”, based on the draft principles set out above, and seek public consultation and discussion to inform future decisions about how to open up government.
The Charter will include as matters for consultation the following specific suggestions, most of which emerged from the OpenLabourNZ process
So all the suggestions, remain just that – suggestions. Would it have been that difficult to at least commit to a couple of them?
Now having a “we might do it” policy is better than no policy at all, so I do still think it is a good thing they have this policy, and I hope the next Government, regardless of which party is in power, looks to implement the good policy proposals there, such as:
Establish as default practice Ministers and government agencies releasing all Cabinet papers and other relevant papers onto a dedicated website, in line with the Official Information Act (the Act), once a decision is announced by government. Exceptions will apply for security or commercially sensitive information and other areas already set out in the Act, with the usual request and appeal processes continuing to apply where the
government does not release papers by default.
This is one I have personally championed. What I see is a www.oia.govt.nz website where all Cabinet level information is placed automatically, and also all OIA requests of any nature are placed. At present lots of information is released, but only to the requester, which means others can not benefit from it.
Work towards publishing or broadcasting all public Parliamentary proceedings (such as Select Committees) over the Internet and digital television.
Would be great to be able to see MPs at their best, rather than merely in the House where often it is at their worst.
Develop a trial of online voting in local government and general elections.
Hopefully there will be a trial for the 2013 local body elections, if the bureaucrats don’t manage to suffocate the process.
There’s also some good stuff on open data and software.
UPDATE: No Right Turn blogs:
The big criticism? It doesn’t go far enough, especially in the latter. For example, there’s no suggestion of bringing Parliament under the OIA, to allow proper transparency around MPs expenses (or indeed, a public right to access its proceedings and oversee its administration). Despite the high degree of public input, this is still an open government policy written by and in the interests of politicians, who benefit from secrecy in these areas. Still, it is much better than anything else on offer in this area, and deserves our support (while of course demanding more).
I am in favour of the expenses part of the The Parliamentary Service being subject to the OIA. I don’t think the entire PS can come in under the OIA as MPs and their staff need to be able to have private conversations and e-mails, but the aspects relating to the use of public money certainly could be.
The alternative is my suggestion that all Government agencies must list on a searchable website all payments over a minimal amount.