Thursday, April 30, 2009

Secrecy and the Digital Economy

It was with some fascination that I noted that the Digital Economy blog and subsequent discussion paper included a section on private sector use of Government information. I realised it appeared there because of the particular interest of one advisor to Minister Conroy who has subsequently moved on to the office of the Premier of Victoria.

It has been one of the notable achievements of the Rudd Government that at least Senator Faulkner has been able to progress on a range of issues to do with openness in Government. This has included both FOI Reform and the lobbying code of conduct. However, I am aware through a family connection that Senator Faulkner is finding the process slow and and the support of his colleagues lacking.

But it remains the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy that sets the benchmarks for opacity. One of the more bizarre is their ongoing inability to understand the lobbying code, most recently demonstrated by a claim in a call for sbmissions that submissions by lobbyists would need to comply with the code. The problem is the code actually notes that submissions made in response to requests for submissions is not a lobbying activity.

They also suffer from an ongoing inablity to release submissions to discussion papers at or about the time of submission. The most recent ase is that of the Digital Economy consultation itself. It appears their excuse (from talking to a colleague) is that they forgot to ask at the time if submissions could be published and are only just getting around to that task now.

A related problem is the idea that consultants reports on policy issues are automatically tagged as "advice to the Minister" and hence never allowed to see the light of day. This usually results in repeated consultations covering the same turf.

Thankfully the related agency ACMA only suffers from its interpretations of the lobbying code of conduct. It has a new policy of including an agency response to submissions (that is, active demonstration of the concept of consultation by demonstrating that the views were considered even if not adopted) at the same time as final papers are released.

I would prefer they focus on transparency of the policy process before they worry about access to Government data.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Verity,

    The submissions are now live on the site: