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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

While I've been otherwise preoccupied.....

Time flies, although Freakonomics  suggests I'm simply showing my age. Six weeks travel went like that and I'm sure I missed a lot. Readers contributions on noteworthy matters are welcome. From an initial quick browse before boarding a plane, I note:

The imbroglio over the role of the Australian Information Commissioner in determining issues associated with the Government's resistance to producing documents as required by a senate order. See Senators Cormann and Ludlam on the subject in Parliament a few weeks ago. A reminder in this post from February last year that senators from both major parties backed off establishing procedures to deal with disputed claims of executive privilege. Times have changed. So has The Greens clout. When Senator Ludlam  wraps up debate saying "we think this can be brought to a sensible conclusion" that means something these days

Perhaps proving the point, reports that Senator Ludlam has negotiated a deal with the Government to bring NBN Co under the Freedom of Information Act. As mentioned here, NBN Co's exclusion from the act (subsequently confirmed in this the first published decision by the  FOI Commissioner) is the tip of a large iceberg, so interested to see the details, yet to be announced.

Good stuff from Richard Ackland writing in the Sydney Morning Herald: War powers act could stop further debacles ( including how a requirement for parliamentary action could mean the story of our decision making in committing troops to fight might surface before the current 30/20 years); Bill protecting journalists' sources curdles in Canberra ( how legislative action is stuck  and has been complicated by WikiLeaks developments); and Muddle-headed watchdog leaves privacy door ajar ( on ACMA's hard to follow reasoning in finding no breach of privacy standards by the Seven Network following its outing of former NSW Transport Minister David Campbell) which Ackland suggests might not prove to be such a triumph:
This unsatisfactory finding by the authority will reinforce the view, rightly or wrongly, that it is a captive of the industry it is regulating.Meanwhile, the tide continues to turn very much in favour of a law on privacy, hastened by cheap ''gotcha'' stories by the media.Recommendations of the Australian and NSW law reform commissions proposing remedies for breaches of privacy present a nightmare scenario for the media. Injunctions could be obtained for material that may not be found to be a breach of a subject's privacy, but it could take a while for the courts to arrive at that conclusion, and in the meantime the news value of the story could turn stone, cold dead.The revelations in England that the Murdoch press has indulged in widespread phone hacking will hasten the arrival of stronger privacy protections in that country and there will be an inevitable flow-on effect here.The media only has itself to blame.
The Prime Minister put the states in the firing line with this transparency committment for the heath system:
The Prime Minister sealed a deal last night that she said would improve services, take an axe to red tape and deliver "unprecedented transparency" on health.
The Office of the NSW Information  Commissioner has published its first two decisions under the Government Information (Public Access) Act. The two anonymised decisions (not to be standard practice, thank goodness) concern similar applications made by a union to two agencies concerning executive pay that raised different issues in the way each agency dealt with the applications.

And on the "nothing happened" front not a peep out of Special Minister of State Gary Gray about the Belcher Report on parliamentarians entitlements and related transparency issues that the Government has now had for 11 months. Going for some sort of record?

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