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Monday, October 11, 2010

Victoria not for turning, yet, on FOI reform

Melissa Fyfe in The Age provides a run down on transparency issues as Victoria moves into election mode, with Attorney General Hulls defending the record on executive privilege claims and blaming the Opposition for voting down Freedom of Information reforms in Parliament.  Those proposed reforms contained some positives for example on charges but included extending the time limit to 75 days, so "reform" wasn't the word that came instantly to mind. After one go in February 2008, the Government retired hurt. One positive, the Government's recent commitment to Gov 2.0, well worth a tick according to some, doesn't rate a mention in the article.

On the general picture, I'm with Ken Coghill and Rick Snell:
Despite the government's claims to be transparent, governance experts describe Victoria's approach to information as being from the ''horse and buggy era'' and have called on the Premier to introduce right-to-information laws that put the onus on the government to ''push'' information out, rather than the public having to ''pull'' it from the government through freedom of information. Such laws have been adopted by Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania, said former Labor speaker of the lower house, Ken Coghill, who now lectures in governance at Monash University. ''I know John Brumby has a belief in accountability,'' said Dr Coghill. ''This election is a great opportunity to announce further steps and introduce right-to-information legislation.''...

(FOI law based on pull rather than push is) all upside-down for Rick Snell, a freedom of information expert and senior lecturer in law at the University of Tasmania. Like Dr Coghill, he believes Victoria's approach is antiquated, that it must introduce the right-to-information laws other states have. ''Your version of FOI is the 19th century, horse-and-buggy approach where ordinary people have to pull information out of the government,'' he said. ''What we need to do is train public servants and politicians that secrecy is not the only game in town.''

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