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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Queenslanders take to right to information laws

Government agencies in NSW and Tasmania, gearing up for the commencement of new right to information laws later this week, and Commonwealth agencies readying for change in November, will be interested in (concerned about?) the report by Patrick Lion in The Courier Mail last week (Rush for right to know, 24 June-no link available). Lion says Queenslanders have embraced the new Right to Information laws, operating there since July last year, with some larger departments  experiencing up to a threefold increase in new RTI and privacy applications compared with workloads under the old freedom of information legislation.

Queensland Health has received 743 RTI and privacy applications since July, compared with 220 requests for the final year of the old law. Lion reported that Information Commissioner Julie Kinross also warned of delays in finalising appeals of department decisions after a 60 per cent increase in external review applications since applicants could bypass internal agency reviews.

Premier Bligh said the popularity, reflected in a 10-20 per cent workload increase across departments, was due to her Government's greater openness and accountability."It shows there is a genuine interest in the community and that our Government is now releasing more information than ever before," Ms Bligh said."That's not only part of being a healthy democracy, but being the most open and accountable government in the country." Ms Kinross said the convenience of online applications and people being more confident in using the new laws had sparked the wave of applications."I'm anticipating our end-of-year figures for applications for external review will be up by 60 per cent," she said. "We have had a distinct rise in applications for external review from the media and members of parliament. The additional workload will affect the timeframes."

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