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Friday, September 11, 2009

Cloud cookoo still hanging over some in NSW Parliament

It's been on again this week as the NSW Government had another go at getting rid of the absurd law that would ban print media in NSW from publishing what everyone seems to describe as "crude league 'tables" of school performance. Here is some background if you missed it. It went down by one vote in the Legislative Council on Wednesday. The two Hansard extracts are here and here. . Government's role in all this is to publish and keep up to date accurate information on the best indicators of school performance, to tell us how to best analyse and interpret the information, and then get out of the way. The newly appointed head of the national body responsible for this sounds fully aware of the real issues.The mind boggles at what terrors some will see as Gov 2.0 moves forward and more data on all sorts of subjects becomes available.

Premier Nathan Rees told the PANPA newspaper conference yesterday that the ban on newspapers publishing information in the public domain was ''the greatest assault on press freedom in Australia in 50 years''- even allowing for a bit of rhetoric, it's up there with the best of them, in any event.

''The Greens-Coalition amendment undermines the capacity of our democracy to engage in healthy public debate,'' he said. ''It strikes at the very right of journalists and newspapers to report public issues without fear or favour …''This amendment may well be unconstitutional. It is certainly unethical and indefensible.'' The Herald understands the Government is considering seeking legal advice on whether the fines are unconstitutional. The Minister for Education, Verity Firth, said the Government had given the Opposition the chance to ''see sense on this issue, and they failed dismally''. The amendment would punish newspapers alone for republishing information that's already legally in the public domain''.

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