Tomorrow (28th September) is ‘International Right to Know Day’ – a day set up to promote the right to access information – the right to know. This year marks ten years since it was first launched by the Freedom of Information Advocates Network, who wanted to raise awareness about the public’s right to access government-held information, like how decisions are made, and how public money is spent.
Freedom of information and open government is so important for helping the public to actively engage in a democracy.
Here in Aotearoa, we’re lucky enough to have the Official Information Act (OIA) and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) that give us the ability to request access to official information from the government and local authorities.
But we could do better.
That’s why we’ve been fighting for better transparency around lobbying, because we believe that the public have a right to know who is influencing the decision makers about what.
And why we’ve been pushing for increased funding for the Office of the Ombudsman, who are under acute pressure because of a surge in the number of complaints from the public over the way government agencies are releasing information, while at the same time the office is suffering from serious underfunding.
And it’s why we’ll be submitting on the upcoming Standing Orders review, putting forward positive solutions to help improve our law-making and strengthen the public’s ability to have a say on legislation.
We’ll also be keeping an eye on what the Government does as a new member of the Open Government Partnership. This is a formal partnership of 58 countries committed to the principles of transparency and open government through increasing the availability of information about governmental activities, supporting civic participation, implementing the highest standards of professional integrity, and increasing access to new technologies for openness and accountability. The NZ Government has been dragging their heels on this for a long time, but finally last week signalled that they will be signing up to it by the end of the year. It will be a great opportunity for us as a country to advance the principles of transparency and open government, so we’ll make sure that the Government stays true to these principles.