Government ramps up data hypocrisy while Labor ducks for cover

by | Oct 31, 2016 | Government, Tax

Dear People of the Information Revolution, today is the day!
“Have your say on Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan” decreed the “ogpteam” this morning in an official government press release!

Okay, ogpteam, if you insist, we’ll have our say … this is yet more utterly shameless propaganda. Never has the schism been deeper between government rhetoric and reality.

This is the same government which is plotting to privatise the corporate database – sell it to a monopoly private operator – the very same database which already boasts the world’s most expensive and inaccessible “public” information.

This is the same government, whose Department of Finance spurns Freedom of Information (FOI) requests; the latest being for a scoping study into the sale of this Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) database.

One concerned citizen, James Horton, had sought more open and accessible information from government and submitted an FOI request two months ago. The Department of Finance soon informed him that the cost of “search & retrieval” of this scoping study would be $15.30. The document would take just over one hour to retrieve.

The cost however of “decision-making” for this process – redolent perhaps of the efficiency of the old Soviet Five Year Plans – would amount to $2,561.00, which entailed 128 hours of decision-making by the department’s comrades at $20 per hour.

It gets better. James Horton informed us this morning that – after his volley of correspondence with the Department – he had been informed by the department’s comrades that he could not have access to the “public” information he was seeking anyway.

Meanwhile this morning from the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet:

“The Australian Government has released a draft of Australia’s first ever Open Government National Action Plan for public consultation”.

The Great Draft Plan contains five points. Here they are:

Transparency and accountability in business
Open data and digital transformation
Access to government information
Integrity in the public sector
Public participation and engagement

It is encouraging to know that – just like the Soviets back in the day – our Central Committee doesn’t let reality get in the way of a great plan, or for that matter a new taxpayer-funded body to chew though some public funding.

It is hard to tell what connection the Interim Working Group for Australia’s OGP National Action Plan has with the recently formed new government department, Digital Transformation Office (DTO). Perhaps there is also a connection with the older, yet still extant, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

The latter is, by its own admission, committed to ”open public sector information” and the integrity and importance of free, public, and open information in government.

”We will champion open government, provide advice and assistance to the public, promote better information management by government …”

Free and open information? The gag is on us

Just out of interest it is worth detailing the Opposition’s policy on the sale of the ASIC database. What was Labor’s position on the sale? “Consulting and going through our internal processes”.


Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.


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    Prepare the gallows! These crawling, slithering corporate connected politicians have their day of justice coming.

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    “The cost however of “decision-making” for this process – redolent perhaps of the efficiency of the old Soviet Five Year Plans – would amount to $2,561.00, which entailed 128 hours of decision-making by the department’s comrades at $20 per hour.” Is this a joke? WTF is going on in this country. Surely it’s a mistake.

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    Yeah they’re a despicable lot. On the ASIC register, there wasn’t any consideration of the policy merits (or lack thereof) of privatising a legally mandated monopoly that produces public goods (but charges for them anyway, for some insane reason). The ‘scoping study’ was just the government paying a bunch of private equity consultants to tell them how much money they could make by selling the register.

    To clarify, ASIC registry data is a ‘public good’ in the technical sense: consumption is non-rivalrous (i.e. the marginal cost of production is ~0 and it is infinitely reproducible), and if the government had any sense they would make it non-excludable (rather than putting it behind a paywall, which technically means it’s a ‘club-good’). It turns out that no-one in Finance or Cabinet have read a first year uni economics text-book…

    And the DTO is a joke. They systematically pushed out anyone with real technical expertise in the early days. They then transformed themselves into a ‘design’ agency. I know of at least 2 key experts in certain IT sub-fields who were driven out by the DTO: one resigned from the APS in disgust, the other switched jobs when it became obvious the DTO was going to reel her back in.

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    what else do you expect under the so called leadership of Billy Bob Shorten? This is NOT the ALP of the great Gough Whitlam nor John Curtin

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