When it comes to that however it's a matter of blind faith (and I'm not one of the faithful) when the Attorney General asserts:
"The government is committed to transparency and openness and these measures serve those objectives. The budget measures have been designed and crafted to ensure that the transparency and openness of the system remains but that the system can be administered more efficiently."I'll leave you to pick through the extract from the transcript below, which will surely test your mettle, noting tidbits such as 23 of the current OAIC 63.3 staff will go as the rest are reassigned (I seem to recall the estimate of what would be required before the Office opened for business was 100?) ; Privacy Commissioner Pilgrim stands by earlier support for mandatory serious data breach notification legislation; and a single focus one sided discussion about FOI costs and charges, as per usual based entirely on agency estimates with no regard to the waste and inefficiencies in the way many chose to handle this function.
Starved to death?
In contrast there is a lot more insight than you'll find in the Hansard in the opinion piece by Emeritus Professor Richard Mulgan of the ANU in The Canberra Times, on Tuesday: "How the FoI watchdog was starved to death. The Information Commissioner was set up to fail: denied the resources it needed to do its job."
We share a fair bit of common ground but wouldn't want you for that reason to miss these extracts (emphasis added)
... the budget papers say that ''simplifying and streamlining'' FOI review processes by transferring them from the OAIC to the AAT ''will improve efficiencies and reduce the burden on FOI applicants''. There is no mention of the fact that external reviews will now cost over $800 instead of being free. Certainly, if re-imposing a significant fee leads, as it must, to a substantial reduction in the number of appeals, those who can afford to seek a review can expect a faster, more efficient service. For this reason, the changes have been welcomed by representatives of media businesses, which have chafed at the increasing delays caused by the flood of less well-off appellants. But it is a deceitful sophistry to describe improved service caused by pricing out most would-be applicants as ''reducing the burden'' on applicants.Senate Estimates extracts here.
If the government had been sincere in its aim to simplify service while minimising burdens on the public, it could have adopted other reforms canvassed by Hawke, such as abolishing the second tier of appeal to the AAT, leaving the OAIC as the sole avenue of external review while imposing a small application fee..
.. ...The position of information commissioner was established in the context of the digital revolution, which has transformed the collection and dissemination of government data. One of the commissioner's main statutory functions was to report on ''the collection, use, disclosure, management, administration or storage of, or accessibility to, information held by the government''. As part of this responsibility, the OAIC has concentrated on issues of transparency and accessibility, particularly through government websites. In a number of reports and policy statements, it has stressed the values of open government and sought to encourage a culture of proactive disclosure, whereby agencies take the initiative in publishing the types of information and data that they would be willing to release under FOI...
In trying to fulfil this mission, the Information Commissioner has faced strong institutional headwinds. With a few notable exceptions, ministers and bureaucrats remain stubbornly attached to a culture of secrecy and confidentiality. The digital revolution and the internet may have greatly facilitated the mechanics of government transparency. But they have also spawned the continuous media cycle and the premium on government management of information. Agency compliance with the new information policies has often been perfunctory and tokenistic. Even so, as statutory champions of open government, the Information Commissioner and his office have at least flown the flag for greater government transparency. That they have not been able to achieve major cultural change within the bureaucracy is hardly surprising, given their modest resources, the absence of strong political backing, and their relatively brief existence. But if opponents of open government are happy to see the office abolished, that in itself may be some testimony to its effectiveness.
Office of Australian Information Commissioner