Search This Blog

Saturday, May 19, 2007

When did Rudd see the light on government transparency?

Federal Labor Leader Kevin Rudd, perhaps sensibly acknowledged that his past record on openness and transparency when Director General of the Queensland Cabinet Office, could come back to haunt him, but he may not have anticipated that the then Queensland Information Commissioner Fred Albietz, would come out of retirement to make sure that we all knew the details.

In FOI 'never recovered from Rudd attack' The Australian reports that Albietz says that changes to the Queensland Freedom of Information Act made on Rudd's watch in 1993, allowed thousands of documents containing public service advice to be claimed to be exempt as Cabinet documents simply on the basis that they had physically been present in the Cabinet room when ministers met. The exemption has not been altered since, and has given rise to anecdotal stories that boxes of documents have been wheeled in and out of the Cabinet room on trolleys to give them protected status. Queensland and Victoria are the only jurisdictions in Australia that include an FOI exemption broad enough to apply in these circumstances.

The article quotes Albietz - regarded in FOI circles as an outstanding commissioner with a long line of reasoned decisions that reflected the open spirit and intention of FOI legislation - as saying that he was regarded as "a zero" by the then Premier, because of his views, and was for the chop if the Goss government was re-elected, but it lost and he stayed on in office until retirement in 2001.

Abietz devoted 24 pages of his 42 page Annual Report in 1994-1995 (starting at page 18), to a detailed analysis and criticism of a range of changes made to the FOI Act and regulations in 1993 on the basis that they reflected a disturbing return to the secrecy that had marked previous administrations in Queensland and had led to the Fitzgerald Royal Commission.

While Rudd has given an indication of general support for the Australian Right to Know Campaign, and may have had a conversion on the road from Brisbane to Canberra, more and specific details of Federal Labor's plans for FOI reform are needed before the election later this year.

No comments:

Post a comment