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Monday, January 22, 2007

Search for gold in 10 year old Cabinet documents

I'm back and resuming normal coverage after our series of summer blogs, mostly written from Washington DC.

Rick Snell's column in last Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald "Open-and-shut case of Tasmanian devilry", recounted his experience in seeking access to Tasmanian Cabinet documents that are now 10 years old. We mentioned this important break through in an earlier blog at the time Rick overcame attempts to claim the documents were exempt.

It doesn't appear to be widely known that the NSW FOI Act includes a similar provision to that contained in the Tasmanian Act - in NSW a document created after 1 July 1990, cannot 10 years later attract the Cabinet document exemption, although such a document could still be claimed exempt on other grounds.

There has been nothing on the public record to indicate that anyone has sought access to documents that would reveal NSW Cabinet processes for the period 1 July 1990 to January 1997, none of which can now be claimed to be exempt under the Cabinet document exemption in Clause 1 Schedule 1 of the Act - see Acts In Force - Freedom of Information.

As Rick Snell points out, these types of documents should be of interest at least to those involved in the study of government decision making. And of course the 1995-1996 documents would cover the first couple of years of the Carr Labor Government's term, making them of some potential contemporary relevance.

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