The Australian government is increasingly outsourcing its dirty work to private companies and foreign governments.

Outsourcing has ostensibly been about delivering services more cheaply but it has become a neat way for governments to avoid transparency in some of the most unpalatable areas of government policy.

We see this at its most extreme in the Australian government’s offshore immigration regime. But it is happening in other areas, too.

Take, for example, our new data retention laws, under which private companies will carry out mass surveillance with the help of government funding — but will not be subject to the same accountability that a government agency would if your data were stolen.

As Crikey reported earlier this month, the government has gone to great lengths apply public service-like secrecy measures to private contractors and their staff within the immigration network. At the same time, they continue to insist the private companies that do our bidding cannot be subject to public service-like scrutiny.

All agencies that are responsible for delivering services on behalf of Australian taxpayers must be subject to real public transparency. Today Crikey publishes the first in a series on how democratic accountability is being increasingly undermined by government outsourcing.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey