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Sunday, June 04, 2006

FOI in the news

Media reports based on FOI over the past week included:

Sun Herald 28 May – “Long wait for FOI requests”: NSW Police are forwarding letters of apology to FOI applicants regarding a 6 month delay in processing requests said to be the result of a chronic staff shortage.

(Just a comment on this – the Ombudsman’s last Annual Report page 132 says that Office has “become increasingly concerned at delays by NSW Police in dealing with FOI applications”. The report said that while some short term measures had been put in place to deal with increased applications “no significant long term measures have been (taken) to enable NSW Police to comply with the statutory timeframes for assessing applications. We have now begun a formal investigation into these issues”.

The more things change, the more they stay the same?)

Herald Sun 29 May – “Big squeeze in schools”: in this report about school class sizes the paper says the Victorian Education Department has refused to reveal how many schools have composite classes, but an FOI application has now been lodged for the files.

Australian Financial Review 30 May – “Qantas deal clouds Singapore free trade talks”: this front page story about ongoing negotiations with Singapore includes a letter obtained under FOI written by the former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson in September 2002 to the Singapore Government indicating positive interest in an ‘open skies’ agreement.

The Daily Telegraph 31 May –“School safety put on notice”: documents disclose inadequacies in occupational health and safety in NSW schools and the results of some prosecutions for breaches.

The Australian 2 June –“Child Support’s security blunders”: an internal audit of the Federal Child Support agency found 405 privacy breaches within the last 9 months – 69 involving sensitive information being given to ex-spouses.

The Australian 2 June also published an editorial “The right to know”. It comments about Federal Government secrecy regarding the amount of revenue generated by the various taxes that apply to superannuation. The editorial – it is the second item on this page – goes on to comment about openness in the Federal Treasury:
“Treasury in particular, suffers from a culture of secrecy. Treasurer Peter Costello has justified this by saying that public servants should be able to provide critical advice without fear that it will enter the public domain. He claims use of the Freedom of Information Act by media groups, particularly The Australian, jeopardises policy development. Indeed, the Treasurer recently defended government secrecy in the High Court in a landmark FOI appeal over documents relating to income tax, with a judgment expected within six months. The Government's secrecy over superannuation taxes reveals the use of power over information for narrow political purposes. A vigorous democracy requires that government is open and accountable. Voters should be empowered to make judgments about government on the basis of its actions, about which there should be full disclosure”.
Sunday Telegraph 4 June- “Rise in prison inmates: staff pay sours“ the State's prison population has swelled by 1100 in the past four years leading to a staff shortage and an overtime bill of $100 million.

As usual links to some articles are not available in free content.

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