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Public Administration News  
NZ: Open Government Policy a First
Source: www.labour.org.nz
Source Date: Friday, November 18, 2011
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: New Zealand
Created: Nov 25, 2011

Labour today released New Zealand’s first comprehensive Open Government policy developed in consultation with the public, committing to a set of principles and actions to instil greater confidence in government.

“Many New Zealanders regard politicians and politics with cynicism. They feel disconnected from the democratic process and they feel unable to connect with politicians or the way government operates,” Labour MPs Clare Curran and Grant Robertson said.

“People deserve to know the democratic process around parliamentary law making is sound. Hence, transparency of political offices is the core principle in the Open Government policy.

“It also commits to producing a comprehensive ‘Open Government Charter’, based on a set of principles developed by Labour MPs in consultation with members of the public.” Clare Curran said.

“In includes provisions for Cabinet papers and other documents to be publicly available once decisions are made without people having to request them through the Official Information Act.”

“A Labour government will also initiate a review of the Standing Orders and look at how to ensure better public input into the legislative process, including through the use of new technologies; and restricting the use of urgency,” Grant Robertson said.

 “Labour has worked for three years to be more accessible to New Zealanders, through social media such as the blog Red Alert, through community engagement and through enabling people to have more input into policy-making.

“In 2010 Labour trialled OpenLabourNZ, a new way of Labour engaging with communities to seek their input by using new technologies and methods to increase participation drawing on similar processes used in Australia, the US and the UK. This policy is the distilled outcome of OpenLabourNZ,” Clare Curran said.

Among the matters for consultation included in the Open Government Charter are the following:

  • Require Ministers and Government agencies releasing all Cabinet papers and other relevant papers (with some exemptions) onto a dedicated website, in line with the Official Information Act (the Act), once a decision is announced by government.
  • Publish the Hansard in a format that can easily be re-used and republished by anybody for any purpose.
  • Release appropriate public sector data and information free of charge, in line with the current Declaration on Open and Transparent Government and NZ Data and Information Management Principles.
  • Work towards publishing or broadcasting all public Parliamentary proceedings (such as Select Committees) over the Internet and digital television.
  • Consider the regular use of formal citizen assemblies to help develop policy in areas where public input and consideration can assist in tackling complex problems.
  • Develop a trial of online voting in local government and general elections.
  • Consider the degree to which other public services can be made available online through an easy-to-use one stop website.
“Labour is committed to trying new ways of engaging with the public that are aligned to our values and strengthen our democracy.

“We believe New Zealanders understand a balance must be struck between transparency and accountability, on the one hand, and the need for the provision of ‘free and frank advice’ to guide effective government and to protect the security and commercially sensitive aspects of advice.

“But increasing people’s trust in the political process can only be guaranteed by ensuring a more open government,” Clare Curran said.
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