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Friday, November 27, 2009

FOI Reform speeches

The Second Reading speeches by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives yesterday ( links here) on the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 and the Information Commissioner Bill 2009 are, understandably, universally positive about the proposals. There is a bit of a myth emerging about the consultation process including the comment yesterday that the Bills "are the product of a participatory process." Yes but just for the record, and without labouring the point, the consultation process was, well, ordinary- a selected brief chat with a few people before the release 16 months after the election of an Exposure Draft of amendments, a pretty forbidding document for anyone but boffins, but which had the effect of "framing" the problem and providing its own answers; followed by a largely one-way submission process, and a round-table in Canberra where officials outnumbered other participants and they all fitted comfortably into a pretty small room; and virtual silence since, with the final product containing a few points raised in submissions.The explanation of course is that the Government had no higher ambition than to implement its pre-election commitment.

On the substance of what was said yesterday, one matter worth noting, although the Government appears not to be making much of it- the FOI Charges Regulation yet to be released will provide that if there is a failure to comply with a statutory time period, any charges will be waived. NSW has included a similar provision in the GIPA Act. This will have some impact on agencies frequently late in determining applications. Unless I missed it I don't think waiver of charges for being late has been mentioned before.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:46 pm

    Re: “NSW has included a similar provision in the GIPA Act.”

    I had not noticed this previously but it is pleasing to see that it’s there.

    Whilst this is just my impression, I feel that some NSW agencies do not respond within the statutory time period almost as a matter of course – a position taken to frustrate applicants.

    I doubt, however, that loss of any $30 fee income by agencies will be any real incentive for them to respond in a timely manner.