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Monday, January 24, 2011

Good intentions... again.

Things I meant to do before heading off overseas, but won't get around to:

Tell you that Christmas came and went and still not a word about the Belcher Report on entitlements for federal parliamentarians, that hopefully addresses transparency issues. The Government has had the report since last April.

Comment before submissions closed on 14 January, on the NSW Information Commissioner's consultation paper on the privacy issues arising from the GIPA requirement for online publication of submissions and objections to a local council on development applications. I would have said that submissions and objections are attempts to influence decion making, should as a general rule be available for public inspection, and that publication on the internet facilitates public engagement, discussion and debate. However publication of personal details-signature, home address for example-on the web is unnecessary and inappropriate. And there should always be scope for individuals to submit, for reasons they need to outline, that their name shouldn't be published either. The same rules should apply to any submission to any agency seeking input on policy or regarding the exercise of decision making powers.

Comment before 1 March on the Australian Information Commissioner's issues paper setting out ten draft principles on open public sector information.They all sound pretty good to me. Not only should every agency have a senior information champion, the agency should have a plan on what it will do to promote and achieve more open access to information. And the Commissioner should establish how performance will be measured.

Draw attention to the Guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under s 93A that an agency must have regard to when they are performing a function or exercising a power under the FOI Act. ("Must have regard to" seems to mean something along the lines of "can't be ignored" but short of "must act in accordance with.") Nothing yet published on the crucial issue of the application of the public interest test in conditional exemptions which now have a more pro-disclosure flavour.

Try to catch up on a raft of interesting decisions handed down in December including by Justice Emmett in the Federal Court in Secretary Department of Health and Ageing v iNova Pharmaceuticals (Australia) Pty Limited; Judge Brebner in the South Australian District Court in Ekaton Corporation Pty Ltd v Chapman& Department of Health; the Western Australian Information Commissioner in Australia First Party Inc v Department of Commerce , and Apache Northwest Pty Ltd v Department of Mines and Petroleu; the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Petroulias and Commissioner of Taxation and Snell and Civil Aviation Safety Authority

As it's now seven months since the end of the 2009-2010 year, have a look at the annual report of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal (but the link on that page to reports doesn't work) and Privacy NSW (but the report didn't make it onto that website before it folded into the Information and Privacy Commission in January and isn't on the Commission website either.)

Good intentions...

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