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Thursday, July 24, 2008

A lament from Melbourne

The Age today follows up yesterday's report of refused Freedom of Information applications for documents concerning investigations into health sector personnel, what contingency plans may be in place if the new transport ticketing system myki collapses and the location of Victoria's top poker machine venues with "Damming flow of info is to damn voters to ignorance" The Age is pleased about movement on reform at the Federal level but scathing about the situation in Victoria, and comments:
"What is it about the words "freedom of information" that politicians and public servants do not get? Freedom: (n), unrestricted use of. Information: (n), the act of informing or telling, knowledge. It is not a complicated concept. It is, however, a shamefully abused reality. The phrase has been mangled by politicians of all persuasions, who espouse the cause, yet deny its effect if it may have an adverse bearing on political fortunes.

The public service, both state and federal, degrade its intent in a far more banal manner. Releasing information could "inhibit an officer's ability to provide frank and candid advice in the future". Does this mean the converse is less important — that not releasing information could inhibit the public's ability to assess the issue at hand? Obviously public servants have to work within legal requirements, but there is cause for concern at the stagnation of movement towards more open and transparent government".

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