On the day, NSW Green’s MLC Lee Rhiannon, introduced the Freedom of Information Amendment (Improving Public Access to Information) Bill. The Bill, if passed would require a comprehensive independent review of the NSW Act. No such review has taken place in the 17 years since the Act was introduced despite many calls over the years from the NSW Ombudsman and others. The Second Reading Speech is here. Debate on the Bill was adjourned - there were no other speakers.
Towards the end of her remarks she mentioned the fact that 28 September was International Right to Know Day. Hansard records the Deputy Opposition Whip, National’s MLC Rick Colless interjecting “Who said that? You made it up”, and the Minister for Justice, Tony Kelly saying “League of Rights Day”. Right to Know day obviously had a low profile amongst our parliamentarians.
Matthew Moore’s column in the Sydney Morning Herald last Saturday highlighted the fact that a wide range of developed and developing countries had NGOs that continued to press for FOI laws that work, while in Australia, those that lobbied for FOI in the first place seem to have packed it in soon after the Commonwealth FOI Act came into operation during the 1980s.
Cecelia Burgman of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative included a comment about International Right to Know Day in a piece about the recent High Court FOI decision in “High Court Chipps back right to know” in Online Opinion. Burgman said that we should all be lobbying our MPs about “Right to Know” prompting quite a few comments from readers, including this gem from Leigh posted last Friday:
“Of course Australians did nothing to mark Right to Know Day. We Australians must be the most complacent people on earth. We are almost completely disconnected from the political process only showing interest when a government decision hits us in the pocket…”.The Tasmanian Times included a little item about Right to Know Day and Rick Snell of the University of Tasmania was busy with a couple of presentations.
The Hobart Mercury ran a long general article about FOI - "Freedom from cover ups" by Wayne Crawford in the Talking Point section, on 30 September.
All in all muted acknowledgement of Right to Know Day in Australia but lots of events in different parts of the world.
Perhaps next year something completely different in this neck of the woods.