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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Seriously, make that "even more slowly," progressing FOI reform

The reason why the Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act to abolish conclusive certificates won't sail through Parliament straight away is that on the recommendation of the Selection of Bills Committee (PDF 55KB), the Senate has referred it to the Finance and Public Administration Committee for report in March 2009.

The only reason given by the Committee for this recommendation is "to allow all stakeholders an opportunity to review the final Bill and ensure the efficacy and transparency of the mechanisms applicable to a decision to exempt material; review of appropriate regime for such decisions, etc."

Hard to see any external stakeholders coming forward to suggest certificates should be retained, that the review mechanism for certificates that will be abolished needs any further discussion, or that the minor technical add-ons to the exemptions proposed are worth worrying too much about. At this rate really substantive FOI reform will be lucky to go from gleam in the Government's eye to implementation much before the start of 2010.The Government is in the driver's seat on all this although it needs help in getting legislation through the Senate.Must either be an indication of reality bites on that front, or suit someone's sense of priorities.

Here is Senator Faulkner's Second Reading Speech, and the discussion in the Senate on the Selection of Bills Committee recommendations, courtesy of Open Australia.Not a word or query from anyone about why the referral was necessary except from Senator Bob Brown who thought it was important. Senator Brown also managed to get the bank deposit guarantee bill sent off to another committee but on that one the report back is due next week on 4 December.

Mere mortals are left scratching heads about a process Senator Faulkner described a month ago "as seriously progressing a high priority reform."

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