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Thursday, September 11, 2008

PM's speech makes good and familiar noises

The Prime Minister's speech to the newspaper publishers' conference, referred to yesterday, repeats earlier commitments to Freedom of information reform rather than telling us anything new.Unfortunately the timetable for release of a discussion paper for second phase of reforms -to cover everything except the abolition of ministerial certificates- may be starting to slip:"later this year"has had "or early next year" added.

One positive is that the PM accepts, and keeps repeating, that greater openness and transparency is necessary if one of the Government's goals of increasing public participation in government affairs is to be achieved. Freedom of Information has failed to deliver on this front right across the country, with relatively little use of FOI rights to seek access to information about policy development and government decisionmaking. Many of those interested long ago worked out that long delays, high cost and the limited chances of getting much useful information, meant that applications for these type of documents weren't worth the effort. If the Government's slow progress on reform can make our democracy more vibrant in this way there will be plenty to cheer about-eventually.

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