"One of the strengths of this new legislation is its potential to change the culture of secrecy in state and local government agencies by requiring the proactive release of information. Premier Keneally must play a key role in driving this reform, or the public will suffer the same frustration as it did under NSW's shoddy old laws. A strong public awareness campaign is critical to educate people about how to use the new system... While former Premier Nathan Rees drove these changes to NSW's freedom of information regime, Kristina Keneally has been silent on the issue since taking office. Premier Keneally could garner a lot of good will in the eyes of the public by putting her energies into championing openness and accountability.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
NSW new era from 1 July; but as to Canberra...?
Deidre O'Donnell the inaugural NSW Information Commissioner took up her position yesterday and Government has announced the Government Information (Public Access) Act will commence on 1 July 2010, replacing the Freedom of Information Act from that date. Everyone will be pleased at that- Parliament passed the legislation last June.
The Office of Information Commissioner has published some additional guidance material but leadership including selling the need for change to those at the top of the tree, and encouraging agency wide re-examination of information handling, publication and access policy and practices in line with the spirit, intent and provisions of the act have to be priorities. As does public awareness, which seems scant at present.
It's not just a job for the commissioner either. As The Greens Lee Rhiannon said in welcoming the new laws, "their strength will be largely determined by how well they are championed from on high."
Meanwhile in Canberra, Federal Parliament resumes today for the Budget session with a long list of bills on the table and two uncertainties about the Freedom of Information Reform legislation - whether it gets a slot in what is now a crowded pre-election agenda, and the extent of support in the Senate for what the Government is prepared to accept in a final version of the bill.