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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FOI Reform statement-details to come...Update:legislation tomorrow

We know this last week of Parliament for the year is a stretch for all concerned, but Special Minister of State Senator Joe Ludwig managed to have a statement tabled yesterday on reforms to freedom of information policy. While the Hansard records this fact, it doesn't include the statement, and so far (12:30 PM the next day) no sign of it on the Minister's website or the Government's Freedom of Information Reform website. I'm sure it will turn up...

Update: Sean Parnell in today's Australian reports the Minister announced that the FOI Reform legislation will be introduced into Parliament tomorrow.. Bills introduced on the last day of sittings proves me wrong in my Fail Grade piece on Monday-but only just.

Parnell reports:

"The new regime comes with the promise of government proactively releasing more information, loosening its grip on historic but still relevant documents, and making it easier and cheaper for individuals to obtain information about their affairs. It remains unclear when the new regime will be in place. Senator Ludwig said last night the initial drafts had been "updated and improved" through consultation.

It is understood the government has altered the proposed avenues of appeal, allowing applicants to go straight to the Information Commissioner if dissatisfied with a decision, and requiring agencies to obtain the approval of an applicant to push back processing deadlines.

Senator Ludwig said the reforms would ensure the right to information was "limited only where a stronger public interest lies in withholding access to documents". "By introducing these bills to the parliament, the government is driving a cultural shift across government to free up access to government information and enhance accountability and transparency," he said.

Senator Ludwig said application fees, currently $30, would be scrapped, a period of processing time would be complimentary, and applications for a merits review by the commissioner would be free. Significantly, the scope of the FOI Act would also be extended to contracted service providers and subcontractors doing work for the commonwealth."

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