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Monday, May 24, 2010

Premier Keneally gives the word on opening up

A good and strong message from NSW Premier Keneally to ministers, ministerial,staff and public servants about what's expected come 1 July with the commencement of the Government Information (Public Access) Act in this memorandum dated 14 May, and given wider circulation in Matthew Moore's article in today's Sydney Morning Herald.

The Premier says::

Central to the new Act is the presumption that all Government–held information should be accessible to the public and that information should only be withheld if it is necessary to do so in the public interest...

The cultural shift that is necessary to realise the full promise of the new legislation will require leadership. Ministers and heads of agencies need to set the tone and cultural expectations which support the release of Government information. It is important that agency staff be given the confidence and support they need to make decisions that further the objects and intentions of the new Act...

There will, of course, continue to be certain types of information that it will be inappropriate to release. Information revealing Cabinet deliberations, sensitive personal or commercial-in-confidence information, and information that could jeopardise public safety, law enforcement or the fair trial of a person are examples. In all cases, however, public interest is the relevant touchstone. Political considerations must not come into play.

Leading by example will be crucial, and Ministers are asked to emphasise the need for all agencies (including Ministers’ own offices) to comply both with the letter and spirit of the new Act..

Ministers should also be aware that the new Act expressly provides that, in dealing with a particular access application, agencies are not subject to the direction and control of Ministers.

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