- 24 government agencies (that includes the OAIC, the AAT and the parliamentary departments);
- 16 individuals (that includes academics such as Rick Snell and Moira Paterson, and for want of a better word, activists, me included, and others with expert credentials such as Megan Carter);
- 13 interest groups and political parties (that includes the media, librarians, archivists, scientists, lawyers, and The Greens and the Pirate Party)
(Update-and a sharp contrast to the 240 submissions on proposed consolidation of anti-discrimination laws)
Perhaps this was to be expected given the review's low visibility. A single media release by the AG, no speeches, events or issues paper, sparse mention in the mainstream media. And limited buzz or encouragement for discussion and debate in the terms of reference that are as dry as dust.
And of course November- January is hardly a great time for such stuff, given most of us tend to be otherwise preoccupied.
In one of my "Dear Dr Hawke's" (and in remarks at the National Information Law Conference in Canberra in November) I wondered if any government agency would bring the review to the attention of those with whom they have dealings, particularly those that take a close interest in issues covered by the agency including FOI applicants. Or mention the review on their website. Not any as far as I can see.
Citizen perspectives, satisfaction, disappointment, how the agency has used FOI to enhance public participation or engagement, or lessons learned about how the law might work better for the public don't rate a mention in agency submissions.
Some agencies with a direct interest because they, or matters of prime concern to them, are specifically mentioned in the terms of reference - Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (cabinet documents) and the intelligence agencies ( currently a blanket exclusion) aren't anywhere to be seen so far. (Update: a joint intelligence community submission has now been published). PM&C, along with Treasury, another no show, have been long-time close friends of Frank and Candid, who also have a special place in this, thanks to Attorney General Roxon's terms.
Maybe in the confidential file?
It isn't just about the reforms of 2010. But that is the focus of most submissions.
Submissions from outside government generally argue for changes that broaden access rights, extend coverage, limit charges, streamline the review model.
(Comment: while agency and OAIC resourcing is an issue, other factors should be under the microscope: cultures that pervade agency decision making and what this adds to cost and time; efficiency, another great unknown; estimated cost including the $41 million figure bandied about needs closer examination. And the need to bear in mind that improving rights of access was, and presumably remains the government's objective. Only around 5000 requests of this type were received in 2011-12 across the entire government sector, hardly a staggering number.)
There is a lot of rats and mice stuff in submissions as well.
I'll pick up in other posts on some of the submissions and significant issues raised.
In a telephone conversation with Dr Hawke a week ago, I urged on him the potential value of some kind of roundtable discussion. Hope he has the time and interest.