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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ministers' media plans off FOI limits

Cute as it might sound, this knock back reported in The Age today of a freedom of information application for Victorian government ministerial media plans is probably well based in law:
The Office of the Premier knocked back a freedom-of-information request from The Age for the media plans, ruling that the documents are exempt because they contain material unrelated to department business. ''All of the documents requested are exempt documents on the basis that they are official documents of a minister that contain material of a political nature which does not relate to the affairs of an agency or a department,'' the decision by the Office of the Premier stated.
Whether it's a good look, in the light of developments there concerning a parliamentary inquiry into media management by one minister's office, or what should be, is another matter.

As pointed out in this post in January, and its true of just about all our freedom of information laws, documents held by a minister are only subject to FOI where they relate to the affairs of an agency - with at least one possible change in prospect come 1 July 2010 with the commencement of the NSW Government Information (Public Access) Act. It remains to be seen how the act is interpreted and applied but it applies to information held by a minister or member of the minister's personal staff "in the course of the exercise of official functions in,or for any official purpose of, or for the use of, the office of Minister of the Crown" (Schedule 4 Clause 11). On my reading no reference to the need for the information to relate to an agency's affairs.

Any rumbles of discontent about the scope of your freedom of information act are best directed to the government concerned. 

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