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Friday, October 20, 2006

NSW Upper House passes FOI review bill

The NSW Legislative Council yesterday passed (24 votes to 17) the Freedom of Information Amendment (Improving Public Access to Information) Bill as introduced by the Greens' Lee Rhiannon.

The Bill, if passed by the Legislative Assembly, would require an independent review of the NSW FOI Act.

Debate was in two stages and is available here and here.

The Opposition, and others from the cross benches supported the Bill and speakers recounted some of their own FOI experiences and those of community groups and activists. The Public Forum (see item below) also gets a mention.

The NSW Police performance in handling FOI came in for strong criticism, with details released of a previously unpublished Ombudsman report on delays and resource problems.

The only speaker for the Government Amanda Fazio, said that the FOI Act was under constant review, was working satisfactorily, and again suggested that the publication of an updated FOI manual for practitioners by the end of the year, would solve any problems with the administration of the Act.

The Government has the numbers in the Legislative Assembly to determine the fate of the Bill but its on the back foot at the moment over this week's handling of a report on the Police and last year's Cronulla riots. Perhaps there will be recognition that the whole issue of access to information should be looked at more closely.

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