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Thursday, April 30, 2009

FOI reforms a red flag for business?

In a recent post I mentioned significant aspects of Minister Faulkner's Federal Freedom of Information reform package regarding private sector or business information -changes to the business affairs exemption and planned referral to the ALRC of the issue of private sector disclosures- and that so far, the Government has not invested time or energy in explaining why they are necessary and warranted. Leading law firm Allens Arthur Robinson (and I imagine others) are starting to raise the red flag with clients, concluding this briefing note on the subject thus:
"While companies seeking Federal Government information concerning administrative decisions or in connection with litigation may benefit from the reforms, there may be unwelcome implications for companies that provide services to the government or whose business affairs are detailed in government information."
AAR will help if anyone out there wants to pick up on the alert about "unwelcome implications" to lodge a submission in response.

On the broader front of the importance of open transparent and accountable government, and changes to the law to better balance the public interests in secrecy/confidentiality and the right to know, I'm afraid the Australian business community has largely been missing in action for years.

Unless the Government puts an effort into explaining and putting the case for what it is on about with these reforms, naysayers- in this case, powerful and infuential ones- will be happy to occupy the space.

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