Senator Carr’s comments on open government and transparent bureaucracy

Posted on April 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

While any public comment in support of open and transparent government and an accountable bureaucracy is welcome, many of us remember all too clearly the two distinct faces of Senator Kim Carr, the first being the of shadow minister for Science in opposition to the Government and the second face being that of a cabinet Minister responsible for the Science portfolio.

As Shadow Minister, Senator Carr challenged the integrity of the CSIRO in parliament but as a Cabinet Minister was notably silent, with the notable exception of turning his scathing criticisms upon the professional credibility of researchers who disagreed with the government.  A particular criticism of the quality of a peer-reviewed research paper accepted for publication by a prestigious international journal springs to mind!  Remember Clive Spash? The Brave New World of Carbon Trading?  Obviously Senator Carr was not “a fan of evidence-based” anything on the day in which he determined that he was eminently more qualified to pass comment on research than noted experts in the particular field of research.

Former minister in plea for open government

April 18, 2013 – 7:54AM
Kim Carr will call for measures to increase open government.Kim Carr will call for measures to make government more open. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Rudd backer Kim Carr – a casualty of Labor’s leadership turmoil – will use a speech in Melbourne Thursday to attack ”bureaucratic blockers” in the public service and his own party’s commitment to open government.

Until March the minister for human services responsible for Centrelink, Medicare and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, Senator Carr will say most governments start off believing in open government, but that ”the will tends to ossify”.

Senator Carr broke new ground by throwing open previously closed departmental records to researchers examining questions such as the link between prescription drugs and birth defects and the health impacts of low incomes.

Invited to open Thursday’s health informatics conference when he was minister, he agreed to open the conference as backbencher after the invitation was re-issued.

”Who isn’t in favour of accountability? Who isn’t a fan of evidence-based policy?” his speaking notes say.

”The trouble is our practice doesn’t always live up to our aspirations.

”As Sir Humphrey observed in Yes Minister: If people don’t know what you’re doing, they don’t know what you’re doing wrong.

”The authority to approve data release is usually held by very senior public servants.  However this power is often delegated right down to ‘middle management’ positions.

”I have been told that officers with the delegated authority often ‘sit on’ requests for inordinate amounts of time. Sometimes it’s due to an overblown assessment of the privacy risks. At other times, they simply lack the time to jump through the hurdles.”

The department processes 200 million payments per year. It holds 7 million gigabits of data.

”President Obama has recently announced a great new project to map the human mind. We have here the great map of Australian society: life as it is lived,” Senator Carr will say.

”Public servants need to constantly be reminded and perhaps reassured that government wants them to release data in accordance with legislation.

”I have approached members of the Coalition on this front, and I have been very pleased with their response.”

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