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Thursday, July 23, 2009

NSW steps backwards as others step forward

Matthew Moore in the Sydney Morning Herald picks up the point that the shift of responsibilities to the Attorney General for the implementation of the new NSW access to government information act is a change from 20 years of practice in the state where the Premier has been the minister with authority concerning the Freedom of Information Act.

Putting the Premier in charge of FOI was unique to NSW and reflected a clear decision originally by Nick Greiner- arguably the only premier in this state in living memory to take a close interest in public administration- that transparency required a different focus than the administrative law mindset applied in every other jurisdiction where responsibility sat with the attorney general. In 2009, just as others-notably the Federal and Queensland governments- have recognised this and followed the NSW lead, NSW goes in the other direction. Its a shift of gears that no-one (outside government at least) had heard a word about in over a year of discussion following the Ombudsman's decision to have a look at how things could be done better.

The Premier's spokesman says the changes reflect arrangements in most other jurisdictions. Not the current arrangements in the two other jurisdictions that have dusted off old acts to have a look at what might work best in the information age.

Not a good move in my book. What's that old story-give a person a hammer and everything looks like a nail?

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