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Friday, November 05, 2010

NSW Information Commissioner takes GIPA on the road

NSW Information Commissioner Deirdre O'Donnell and her staff are to be commended for efforts to improve awareness of information rights through a series of roadshow presentations, first in regional centres and more recently in suburban Sydney locations for government employees, NGOs, members of the public and the media. Sessions are still to be held at Campbelltown, Bankstown, Parramatta, Hornsby and Castle Hill-details here if you are interested (program). Nothing scheduled for the CBD, perhaps reflecting the fact the top end of town has never shown much enthusiasm for the topic beyond self interest.(Update: business should be interested even on that score because as pointed out here, the new NSW law includes some changes of direct relevance. And on page 2 of the program there are details of two sessions in the CBD scheduled for March 2011, along with others at Chatswood, Gosford and Katoomba.)

The Office-leading from the front in the pro-active disclosure stakes- has also published Review report: Right to Information Roadshow - regional, Oct 201 providing an overview, costs and lessons learned from the first 11 workshops held in regional locations outside Sydney. Total attendance was 696: about 600 from government agencies and what looks like a rather disappointing public turnout, none at one session and single figures at another six sessions. There is no breakdown of who showed up. Getting citizens interested in their rights, and participation in government processes is a tough gig, and requires a range of ongoing initiatives. I wonder if government agencies did anything to bring the briefings to the attention of locals? That might have helped spread the word. And whether scheduling sessions for business hours on weekdays necessarily excluded a segment of those who might be interested?

Good on the Commissioner for this first go (and for publishing the review report). From the feedback 91% of attendees were highly satisfied. An additional bonus was media exposure through interviews with local papers, television and radio. There's still time for Sydney folk to make it.


  1. Is this how govt departments will circumvent the new open, honest and transparent govt?

    This is Canterbury City Councils response

    These are unreasonable conditions?

    The Council decision & issues referred to in that document - were a requirement following the NSW Ombudsman investigation in to the unreasonable conduct of Council that caused an 83yo pensioner woman to end with a debt now nearing $300,000 . A lengthy investigation into the Council that resulted in a report that stated this Council FAILED on numerous fronts and because it's conduct was UNREASONABLE.

    A Council is required to give reasons for it's decisions. Yet this Council not only did not provide a reason but it imposes this unreasonable, costly condition stating SECRECY is a must.

    NSW government FOI changes are false.

  2. Mallone Supporter,
    I notice the letter says the report was prepared "for a number of purposes" including for use in possible legal proceedings. For a claim of legal privilege to succeed the dominant purpose for which the document was prepared is the test.

    The letter from the council predates the commencement of the GIPA act on 1 July. Under the GIPA act, if privilege is validly claimed, the agency is required by to consider waiving privilege before refusing access.And to take into account any personal factors relevant to the applicant's request for the document. While a claim of privilege is subject to review( internal review,Information Commissionewr, ADT) a decision not to waive privilege is not. Hope this helps.

    The changes are real. That doesn't mean applications will always be succesful.