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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dr Hawke's FOI report may get lost in pre-election hubbub

My ears pricked up at the Privacy Reform and Compliance Forum in Sydney today when in answer to a question about the OAIC from the audience, Attorney General Dreyfus said in passing '"we are waiting for the report from Dr Hawke."

I had been working on the basis that Dr Hawke's report on the operation of the Freedom of Information Act had to be finished and the report submitted by 30 April and tabled in Parliament within 15 sitting days. In my mind this was any day in the next week or so.

Here is why. The text of the relevant section of the FOI act reads:
Review of operation of Act
             (1)  The Minister must cause a review of the operation of this Act to be undertaken.

             (2)  The review must:

             (a)  start 2 years after the commencement of this section; and

             (b)  be completed within 6 months.

Note:This section commences immediately after the commencement of section 3 of the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 .

             (3)  The Minister must cause a written report about the review to be prepared.

             (4)  The Minister must cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the Minister receives the report. 

But prompted by the Attorney General's comment, a close reading of the provision suggests the review must be completed within six months of commencement on 1 October, ie 30 April. 

However there is nothing that stipulates when the report must be submitted to the Attorney General thereafter.

It seems Dr Hawke has whatever time he likes or needs after completing the review, to write the report and hand it over to the Attorney General. Who then within 15 parliamentary sitting days must table it.

With Parliament to sit for eight days commencing on 17 June and perhaps not again before the September election, strictly speaking the Hawke report may not see the light of day until well after election day on 14 September.


  1. Anonymous3:07 pm

    The Coalition haven't been making noise about transparency the same way Labor was in 2007. Is there anyone in the Coalition who might be a champion of transparency the same way Faulkner was in Labor?

  2. Hard to spot so far. There have been rumblings here and there about how things should be better but nothing I'm aware of that adds meat to the bone. Senator Brandis is in the position to lead on this but has little on the record about the what and how to date.