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Monday, August 10, 2015

Open season on information commissioners?

Victoria's plan to enhance FOI watchdog powers stands in sharp contrast to the Federal Government's tenacity in clinging to its plan to abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner one way or the other and in the meantime leaving the office with one acting commissioner instead of the three positions parliament established.

Freedom of Information Commissioner Lynne Bertolini issued this Media Statement on Friday that she will step down on 5 September citing the government's intention to  create a new position of Public Access Counsellor. 

Farrah Tomazin in The Age suggests other factors may have contributed, and reports Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings providing this general update on reforms:
Mr Jennings did not go into details of the review, other than to say the government had identified "significant opportunities to reform the FOI system", improve oversight and make it easier for Victorians to access information. He said the new Office of the Public Access Counsellor would have extra powers, including the ability to review decisions to withhold documents based on cabinet-in-confidence exemptions. Mr Jennings said the government changes would include requiring agencies to progress and respond to FOI requests more quickly. A bill to establish the new office will be introduced to Parliament in the first half of next year.
Victoria's Freedom of Information Act represents, well, the finest thinking of the nineteen eighties. 

Hopefully those outside government will be given an opportunity to point towards contemporary good practice before 'significant reforms' are locked in.


  1. Hi Peter!

    I hope this finds you well! My name is Sara Shouhayib and I'm a graduate journalism student at Northwestern University in Chicago. I'm working on an assignment about the freedom of information act and how it works in Australia. I need to interview someone in Australia who has either filed a FOIA or has great knowledge about the topic. I think you would be a fantastic resource!

    I could email the questions or do the interview via skype as I'm based in the states. I'll happy to answer any questions you may have and the interview will last about 15 minutes!

    Please feel free to email me at your earliest convenience. I look forward to hearing from you!


    Sara Shouhayib

  2. Hi Sara, Send me the questions and we'll see how far we can take it that way