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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Acknowledgement of FOI improvement brings out nutjobs

There is nothing necessarily sinister or untoward in the Delimiter story reported by Renai LeMay under the headline (Commonwealth) "Govt delays multiple tech FOI  requests", although LeMay is sceptical about the need for consultation before disclosure, concluding:
The Freedom of Information reforms enacted by the Gillard Government have unlocked the public sector’s war chest of secrets a little further. But the Federal Government still has a long, long way to go before it could, in any sense, be described as transparent. I’d like to see a bigger effort made here. The Government should not withhold information from the public just because it’s potentially embarassing. If the information concerned was so commercially sensitive, it would probably not have been disclosed to the Government in the first place.Conroy’s department and his office have generally been reasonably transparent over the time that I have dealt with them as a journalist. However, over the past half-decade, I have found it increasingly difficult to obtain information directly from the AFP or the Attorney-General’s Department about sensitive matters. I would not go so far as to say there is a culture of secrecy at these organisations; there are many reasons for them to be wary when dealing with the press. But at the moment, they definitely need to open the kimono a little further on matters of public interest, in my opinion.
WikiMedia Commons Alethe
Prompting the following comment from "Dessy" also claiming to speak from experience. I'm sure some FOI applicants test more than just the patience of those on the other side, but this supports LeMay's suggestion that the culture change program still needs a kick along:
FOI is a big hassle/ administrative cost for the Govt. Sure, the occasional request uncovers something semi-interesting, but from my experience, FOI is an area dominated by nutjob conspiracy theorists asking stupid time consuming questions that actually end up costing the taxpayer a huge amount of wasted money for all the resources that are spent in administering the FOI Act. Also by journos wanting stuff yesterday, so they can twist information into commercial property. All that said, Australia has one of the most open Governments in the westernised world.

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