Australian Government agencies are taking less time to make decisions on requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
As with every year since commencement most applications (around 80%) were for documents concerning the applicant, which in the usual case and not surprisingly were granted in full. Requests to amend records had a big year, doubling to 5032, almost all the increase in Immigration because of "procedural interpretation of changes to citizenship legislation," whatever that means.
The real test of FOI -access to non-personal documents.
First, only 4660 applications of this kind were received (the detailed tables list the number as 5528). Although it is a small increase in the number of requests of this kind compared to the previous year it's hardly a resounding positive comment on legislation aimed at increasing public participation in government affairs.The FOI Act is now in its 28th year. When was the the last government survey about public awareness of rights of access, or the last initiative to improve public understanding of how to go about seeking information? All matters soon to be in the hands of the proposed information commissioner, I expect.
Second, 12.9per cent (603) of requests were rejected completely and 42.8per cent (1997) were rejected in part. Figures for the previous year were 8.56per cent (447) and 53.1per cent (2771), so quite a significant drift to non-disclosure, and the Rudd Government figures are up on at least some of the Howard Government years. Not a good look for a government that made such an issue of how things were going to be different in this area.