Press Council slams transparency gloss-over

Press Council slams transparency gloss-over

Access to information has been inaccurately represented in an action plan designed to promote government transparency, the Australian Press Council has claimed.

A draft National Action Plan was produced to meet obligations under the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative to promote more open and accountable governments across the world.

The Press Council believes the draft makes unbalanced statements about Australia’s record and international standing.

Council chair David Weisbrot said he was “very uncomfortable with any National Action Plan going to a multilateral body that may leave the impression that all is well here”.

“The plan notes, apparently with some satisfaction, that Australia in 2015 was ranked 13th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, but fails to add that Australia’s ranking has fallen six positions since 2012,” Professor Weisbrot said.

“We should aim to remain among the international leaders rather than congratulate ourselves on not being among the worst.”

The Press Council expressed concern about overuse of secrecy and suppression orders, metadata retention and inadequate protection of whistleblowers.

In a formal submission to the draft, it welcomed an apparent renewed commitment to a strong framework for open, transparent and accessible government, but it said the nation’s problematic record should be reflected accurately.

It believes the Draft Plan is heading in the right direction but does not go far enough.

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