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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Solomon sets FOI reform hares running

Further reporting, comment and opinion on the Solomon report today. All positive, with a consistent theme that proposed reforms should be emulated nationally.

The Courier Mail finds the Premier's positive response heartening, but regrets that confidentiality will be assured for some ministerial briefing documents. In an editorial, The Australian commends the report as
"an effective blueprint designed to change the culture of government for the better. By its nature, public information should belong to the people, and not exclusively to politicians and bureaucrats. As a robust democracy, Australia has nothing to fear and much to gain from transparency, openness and an end to duplicitous cover-ups. Public administration and the quality of journalism would improve as a result."
The Sydney Morning Herald editorial "The way to free up FOI" says the report should grab the attention of every government in Australia and urges Premier Bligh to make a start now on implementing its spirit and intent.

Sean Parnell, FOI Editor of The Australian reports that Federal Cabinet Secretary John Faulkner has welcomed the report as a "valuable contribution to FOI reform "and says the recommendations will be given "careful consideration"in the Federal Government's review process. But as Rick Snell comments in The Australian those review processes have been "snail-like" with nothing to show after 29 weeks.

Snell also sees the potential for reform across the board:
"The Solomon report has delivered to Premier Anna Bligh and all Australian governments a blueprint to achieve the next generation of Australian FOI or right to information laws and practice....The report proposes a new model, a new name and, most important, a new approach to the handling of government information. Governments have been offered protection for some of their most important decisions; bureaucrats have been offered an easier to administer scheme in which their key mission will be to facilitate access; and citizens will receive more high-quality information on a regular basis."
No prizes for guessing the NSW Government's response as reported by Sean Parnell:
"A spokesman for NSW Premier Morris Iemma said the (NSW FOI) act "has contributed significantly to the openness and accountability of Government." The spokesman said the act was "continually subject to scrutiny and review".
Well, the NSW Government failed to act on much needed reform since the Ombudsman first raised the issue in 1991, and with no commitment to change of any kind now awaits the outcome of the Ombudsman's own initiated review.What Solomon proposes for Queensland and Premier Bligh generally accepts are light years ahead of the law, policy and practice in NSW.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:33 am

    The freedom of information in Queensland - and I assume in Australia in general - is an embarrassment for any democracy.

    A healthy democracy has nothing to hide and from my point of view all and everything is in the public interest. A true Democracy does not need a Freedom of Information Act!

    Queensland in its present form is not a free democracy but a forced one. A governing body is selected based on advertisements and promises instead of information, transparency and accountability.