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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Note to PM: "FOI=administrative chaos"

16 May. Note for Prime Minister from Secretary of PM&C:
Freedom of Information legislation  would result in administrative chaos.. departments keeping dual filing cabinets."

20 May. Handwritten note to Prime Minister from Secretary PM&C marked "not for file": "Were I not under threat of my advice being made public I would be questioning with you this whole legislation. It is a can of worms, political commitments notwithstanding."

The heads of Defence and Treasury are opposed to the legislation. Broader and in some cases blanket exemptions are necessary.

More delay, reconsideration and advice is needed.

"What we've got here would go further than any other country with a similar system of government and is an "experimental step of major dimensions.. Whatever the politics of the decision it is certainly a gamble in the administrative sense."

Something this week off the back of a truck? No, just some extracts from "Malcolm Fraser The Political Memoirs" by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons (The Megunyah Press $60) pages 404-405 about events in 1977-the last paragraph 1980, after three more years delay- in the lead up to enactment and commencement of the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act in 1982, ten years after the initial commitment. The notes to the Prime Minister were from then Secretary Geoff Yeend and the material is sourced to documents available in the National Archives- even the handwritten "not for file" note made it onto the files and survives.

What public service players in these positions had to say to the PM or ministers about the 2008-2010 reform process might make an interesting FOI application- or become clear in 20 years (following a shift from 30 to 20 years in the FOI Reform legislation) when records come into open access.

Reports today are that Fraser resigned from the Liberal Party in December, concerned at its direction. He told Jack Waterford three years ago that FOI was his most important legacy.

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