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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First signs of new Queensland

The Queensland Right to Information Act came into force on 1 July 2009, replacing the Freedom of Information Act, so it's still very early days, but already some visible developments.

The Premier's Statement of Right to Information Principles includes a clear, strong message that the government will conduct itself "in the most open and transparent way possible":
"The processes of government should operate on a presumption of disclosure with a clear regard for the public interest in accessing government information. The Queensland public service should act promptly and in a spirit of co-operation to carry out their work based on this presumption"
Specific instructions to the public service include a duty to maximise access without the need for formal applications, to process requests rapidly and fairly, to continually improve processes and to use innovative ways to ensure information is available to all sectors.

The RTI website provides a step by step "where and how" guide to accessing information.

The Premier has also issued Ministerial Guidelines on Publication Schemes and Disclosure Logs. There is nothing wrong with the fact that the categories of information to be included in each agency's publication scheme are a straight knock off of the UK scheme. But a pity there was no original thinking of other information that could be usefully added such as policy research papers, expert reports, grants, loans and guarantees, and ministerial and senior public servant travel and expenses.

The Disclosure Log guidelines seem reasonable, with wider publication of information released no sooner than 24 hours after disclosure to the applicant and in any event within five days, with exclusions of personal information where disclosure would breach the Information Privacy Act or cause substantial harm.

Some agencies have already published the first version of their publication schemes. A good move to provide a single point of access. I haven't checked searchability.

The Premier's Department includes in "Our Lists" the Premier's Gift Register. I didn't check them all but couldn't find any others who had followed this lead.

Welcome developments, wonderfully ironic as the jury retires to consider the verdict on former minister Nuttall over charges of secret commissions.Update: guilty, facing a maximum of seven years.

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