Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tasmania's "push" model needs more push

Three weeks on, Tasmania's Right to Information Act is apparently yet to produce anything from the much vaunted shift to pro-active publication of information, according to this report by David Killick in The Mercury:
"The new laws took effect on July 1, replacing the old Freedom of Information Act. Among their key tenets is encouraging the active disclosures of information by public authorities without the need for a request from the public. Freedom of information expert Rick Snell said measuring progress was difficult but it was disappointing more information was apparently not being released. "I would have had the expectation that the Government and the departments would have been able to point to early initiatives," the University of Tasmanian senior lecturer said. "The Government went to the election and, through the process, on the basis of increasing trust, improving transparency et cetera, so there ought to be an obligation on agencies to make it readily apparent where they think there has been significant improvements in terms of accessibility of information." 
One reason would seem to be that the Tasmanian act prescribes nothing that must be published, as noted in this comment on the Exposure draft last October.The RTI act simply authorises agencies to release information by way of "required" (by an act or under an agreement),"routine" (where the public may be interested in the information), or "active" (in response to requests outside the Act) disclosure, leaving "assessed" disclosure- release in response to a formal application-as a last resort. The act contains no mandatory publication requirements. Section 12 states such disclosures are authorised "subject to" guidelines issued by the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman issued a draft guideline on information to be disclosed under each type of  disclosure, and invited submissions by 19 July. A final version is yet to appear.To summarise on proactive disclosure:
.. the intention of Parliament is that, to advance the objects of the Act, public authorities and Ministers should be making official Information available voluntarily, unless there are good public policy reasons for not doing so.
The draft in effect proposed the adoption of the Queensland (taken from the UK) publication scheme guidelines, which are good, if not ideal, and more extensive than the Commonwealth and NSW statutory publication requirements.

"Subject to" suggests the Ombudsman's guidelines will have clout, but the draft is couched in terms of "recommendations" on what should be published, so it remains to be seen what effect the final guidelines have on agencies.

As the draft states
The adoption of a "push model" in this State will require a change of approach, indeed a change in culture, across Government. It will require recognition by public authorities and Ministers that part of their core functions is making information about their activities available to the public.
Maybe three weeks since commencement isn't enough time although there was a long lead in. This and the absence of final guidelines might explain why nothing much has happened so far. Killick and Snell at least, are watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment