The National Broadband Network Co (NBN) will be exempt from freedom of information laws, unlike other federal government agencies, according to a report by the Australian Financial Review (AFR)...The NBN's exemption, on the basis that it is an incorporated company according to NBN chief legal counsel Justin Forsell, is in contrast to the precedent applied to Telstra prior to its privatisation when the telecommunications company was subject to FOI laws.
brushed it off this morning saying it's the result of "the ordinary operation of the Freedom of Information Act." The Opposition and The Greens foreshadow a challenge when the Senate resumes.
Definitional issues to one side, the act also includes a list of bodies exempt in respect of all or some functions. That needs re-examination as well. Sensitive commercial information is well protected by normal exemptions and doesn't require that the agency be excluded from the act.
The NBN issue is the tip of a large iceberg.
There is a strong case for applying the highest standards of accountability and transparency to bodies carrying out essential and critical community service roles-like a national broadband network- regardless of structure or ownership.