Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tasmanian Parliament delivers RTI package

The Tasmanian Right to Information Act, to replace the Freedom of Information Act, and the Personal Information Protection Amendment Act have now passed both Houses of Parliament, with a few mostly minor amendments. The RTI Act is to commence on 1 July 2010, allowing plenty of preparation time for the new era, and the PIPA Act (primarily transfering amendment of personal information records from Freedom of Information to the privacy act ) on a date to be proclaimed. Debate on the bills was generally of a high standard with some well informed questions and comments in both houses. While debate was sprung on the Assembly quickly (48 hours notice) there can be no criticism that there wasn't adequate discussion. If you are a detail person here are links to debate in the House of Assembly on 15 October (see the Hansard-commencing 4:39 PM), and the Legislative Council on 28 (Hansard- commencing 9:39 PM) and 29 October (Hansard-debate after 3 PM).

The couple of non controversial amendments agreed to in the Council may need to be ticked by the Assembly although this should be routine.One concerns what happens if the Ombudsman exercises authority conferred by the Act (unusual in the Australian context where ombudsman/information commissioners do not have determinative powers) to order that information be released and the authority ignores the order.There was some mulling over possible options including the creation of an offence, but the Council settled on the less draconian but potentially powerful requirement for the Ombudsman to report such an event to a joint select committee of Parliament

An observation: this is pretty good stuff but there is nothing in the RTI Act that specifies what information will be published by public authorities in accordance with the much talked about new "push model." All is yet to be revealed with everything dependent on guidelines to be issued by the Ombudsman. And no-one in many hours of parliamentary debate made much of this rather large hole in the statutory scheme.

I'm still thinking through a potentially significant, unique aspect of the Act- more in another post.


  1. Hi Peter,
    Do you know what, if any transitional provisions exist for the tasmanian act ?

    John Fitzgerald

  2. Peter Timmins3:43 pm

    The Bill- not sure if it has received Assent- says commencement is 1 July 2010 or an earlier proclaimed date. Beyond that don't have details, but the Reform Group in Justice presumably is still there. Email me if you need contact details.