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Friday, September 05, 2008

Canada developments resonate with visitor from Australia

I'm travelling in the US and Canada at present, for the last few days in Ottawa.

 Today's Ottawa Citizen has two items of interest and relevance to our own access to information situation in Australia.

The editorial "Daring to dine out" comments on the fact that local councils in Ontario do not have the resources to inspect restaurants for compliance with health standards,which require three inspections a year for those in the high risk category. But Ottawa's council is to make inspection reports available online "so that the dining public can access the results quickly", bringing Ottawa into line with emerging international best practice. No Australian state, territory or local government jurisdiction has been prepared to go there so far.

 The paper also reports on the results of a three year inspection by the Information Commissioner into whether government agencies had "secret rules" for processing Freedom of Information applications from media organisations, leadingto delays in disclosure of documents. The Commissioner couldn't find evidence of secret rules but found plenty of instances of unfair and unjustifiable delays where "special handling" labels were attached to applications. This is an area that warrants attention from the NSW Ombudsman and others who are looking at what goes on in our own systems.

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