Much of the ground was similar to that covered in his speech to Transparency International at the end of October, with a couple of new references to recent initiatives such as the plan to provide assistance to public servants on ethical issues, and a fresh commitment to respond to reports to government within three months.
As stated previously, the Government is to be commended for its overall record in this area, though something closer to real time public reporting of political donations, something more stringent than a published register of lobbyists, and something much faster than the snail-paced approach to Freedom of Information reform would have boosted our assessment of performance.
On FOI after referring to the bill to abolish conclusive certificates Senator Faulkner said
"This is a first and significant step towards meeting our commitment to greater openness and transparency. Early in 2009 an exposure draft of legislation covering other pre-election commitments on FOI, including the proposal to establish an Information Commissioner to champion FOI across Government, will be released. The Government is determined to make access to information an easier process for members of the community. Naturally we accept, as I know those opposite have in the past, that there is some information which, for the protection of Australian interests, will not be made public. My goal is to ensure that information is withheld only when there are sound reasons. As part of the Government’s determination to strengthen integrity in governance, the Australian Government is committed to a pro-disclosure culture within the public sector."He concluded:
"..the challenge to achieve and maintain integrity, transparency, responsiveness and accountability in government is never really over. The Government will continue to work towards even better outcomes. The start that has been made, however, is I believe impressive. It amply demonstrates the strength of our commitment to these principles."