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Monday, January 25, 2010

Memo Senate: Aussies back from beach soon

"Reform Now" commented on a recent post about the few submissions posted so far on the Senate Finance and Public Administration website in connection with its examination of the Federal Government's Freedom of Information Reform (Amendment) Bill - five to date. Submissions close on 28 January, and I'm working on a submission to that deadline.

The reasons for a handful of submissions so far are obvious- the debate during the earlier Government consultation phase, and now, has been framed in a way that it has all been about words in an act, something that effectively sidelines most john and mary citizen types (but two out of five already in are from citizens on a mission), meaning its largely in the hands of boffins. And December/January isn't a great time of year for even boffins to drag out the computer and get to work on dissecting a few hundred pages of legislation (or the associated Exposure Draft on Fees and Charges, on which submissions closed two weeks ago.)

But fascinating to see Queensland Information Commissioner Julia Kinross in there already (PDF 259KB) arguing strongly a single issue- that Federal parliamentary departments should be covered by the FOI Act. She presents a good set of arguments for something I've been running with for years, so far to no avail.
However, ahem, the Information Commissioner didn't mention Queensland hadn't taken this step in its 2009 reforms. Parliament there remains outside the Right to Information Act 2009. Tasmania, by my analysis of their Right to Information Act, to commence in July 2010, did take this step. I've yet to hear anyone from the Tasmanian Government,  the media, other commentators or even the Queensland Information Commissioner, mention this important Australian precedent.

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