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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Queensland takes gold on FOI reform

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced that the Government has accepted all but two of the Solomon review Panel's 141 recommendations for Freedom of Information changes, 23 with some qualification. There are still steps to be taken to translate intent into law, and to change attitudes in government about the public right to access information, but this is rolled gold reform.

A whole of government information policy to increase proactive release of information, with CEOs to be told to get cracking now to see what can be done straight away; a new simplified act to be called the Right to Information Act with a strong objects clause to ensure disclosure considerations don't get waylaid by "exemption creep"; clear governance responsibilities for making all this work assigned to the Premier and the Director General of her department.This is seriously good stuff.

Congratulations to the Premier and the many others involved who have brought the reform package to this stage, particularly David Solomon and his small crew who crafted ideas about best practice in the information age into a workable set of measures.

Not surprisingly there is room for a few quibbles but not today. For the moment at least, Queensland has set the standard for the rest of the country, where reform is still in the air. Some such as the Federal Minister John Faulkner, the ACT and Tasmanian governments have shown real interest in what's been happening in Queensland. Who knows some of the sentiment may waft over borders to effect even those who have shown no interest (South Australia) or who can manage only a polite nod when someone else- the Ombudsman- starts to do some work on the subject (NSW).

Here is the Government response and the Solomon Review

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