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Thursday, April 30, 2009

NSWLRC throws an oar in on FOI reform

This is from a post in early February, generally welcoming the NSW Ombudsman review report on the Freedom of Information Act:
"The Premier has responded in a media release with a general commitment to greater transparency, to Cabinet consideration of the report's 88 recommendations, and to introducing the new Open Government Information Bill in "the upcoming session of parliament." Good, but a little short of President Obama's example of how to get the message out there that things were to be done differently from day one. The Premier might have done better by adopting some or all of the suggested policy and management changes to get the ball rolling now [1.6], and giving someone very high up in the system some very public accountability for finalising the details for the proposed new legislative framework within a specified but short timeline. Some muscle, clout and capacity to knock heads together will be necessary as the 152 page report leaves room for argument and bureaucratic infighting about the details. Just one - the suggestion for consideration that the Information Commissioner should take over as privacy overseer as well. Others are the recommended review of NSW secrecy laws, and resolving which agencies should continue to enjoy a partial blanket exemption for information about particular government functions.Get the picture?"
There have been no public indications of what has been happening within the NSW Government since, but I'd expect a fair bit of that predicted behind the scenes infighting. Just one small indication- in a highly unusual development, the NSW Law Reform Commission (undertaking a review of NSW privacy laws just entering its fourth year) has popped its head above the ramparts to join the fray, with a statement of its preliminary views about the Ombudsman's proposals in this 27 page submission last month to the Attorney General.The main thrust is to indicate that it opposes the recommendation that the Information Commissioner be part of the Ombudsman's Office. So does the Privacy Commissioner. Last month in a belated submission to the Law Reform Commission on a consultation paper issued in June last year, the Privacy Commissioner's main concern was to argue that the Ombudsman's Offfice shouldn't become the Information Commissioner.

Max Weber who enlightened us all those years ago about the behaviour of bureaucracies would be an interested observer of these machinations around bureaucratic survival and retention/expansion of power and authority. Plus ca change....

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