No gongs this year in the Australia Day Honours for Freedom of Information and privacy advocates or practitioners (although nice to see Julian Burnside and Marion Le recognised for their advocacy of important causes) but Ross Fitzgerald in The Australian today paints a picture of Minister Faulkner's long and somewhat lonely battle for Federal FOI and electoral reform that almost suggests he's due for public recognition for diligence, persistence and political courage:
"In his quest to restore trust, this year Faulkner not only intends to rewrite the Freedom of Information Act to free up government information, he has indicated that he also wants to change key elements of Australia's electoral system. It's difficult to tell which is the tougher task. Fundamental FOI reform will change the modus operandi of bureaucracy and media. Electoral reform will change the way our democracy operates. Resistance to these reforms will almost certainly be strong and often subterranean. While we are unlikely to see anyone bagging transparency and accountability in public, behind the scenes there will be considerable resistance."There's more along these lines.
Fitzgerald managed all this without once mentioning the slow pace of reform on FOI, originally said to be a high government priority, but still largely just being talked about 14 months later. Or mentioning the considerable slippage that has occurred in Minister Faulkner's second stage reforms with the FOI Discussion Paper and draft FOI Bill to be released for public comment, according to Fitzgerald, "in the first half of this year." Or making any comparisons with President Obama who set a new tone on transparency in government from Day One in office....
With Australia Day behind us may the 2009 show begin.