“The Australian Labor Party will build into the administration of the affairs of this nation that will prevent any government, Labor or Liberal, from ever again cloaking your affairs under excessive and needless secrecy. Labor will trust the people.”Shorten's initial response reaffirmed Labor support for whistleblower reform and in subsequent exchanges he said he wanted more transparency about offshore detention facilities.
"If I was Prime Minister it would have to be an amazing set of circumstances where we're not prepared to tell you what's going on," he said.When asked if a Labor government would "allow journalists, independent observers onto Nauru and Manus Island or any offshore detention centre"."Yeah," Mr Shorten responded."When I say that I do that on the basis that I don't want to see the people smugglers back in business."A Labor government will not be, will not be, any different to the Liberals in terms of our determination to stop the people smugglers full stop."When it comes to transparency and the way that people directly or indirectly in Australia's care are treated I do not see why that has to be a secret."That's as much detail as you can squeeze in a Q&A exchange, so broader issues concerning 'other legislation that have the potential to keep the truth from citizens' didn't get a mention. A pity as transparency, accountability and open government have not featured in the campaign so far.
Next week the PM is on Q&A-an opportunity for some probing on the subject?
The Whitlam 1972 speech from which McIver quoted foreshadowed the introduction of freedom of Information legislation, something that took nine years to finally make it on the statute book and then to the credit of the Coalition and Malcolm Fraser.
(A fuller extract from the speech below.)
In 2016 one of Labor's 100 positive policies, National Information Policy includes passing reference to the Office of Australian Information Commissioner.
The ALP National Platform (pdf) Chapter 10 Strong Democracy and Effective Government includes a commitment to preserve and strengthen the OAIC; review the operation of freedom of information and pursue further reforms if necessary. "Labor is committed to the principles of open government." Labor commits to "entrenching open government principles in the culture and practices of the Australian Public Service."
Back in 1972:
"We want the Australian people to know the facts, to know the needs, to know the choices before them. We want them always to help us as a government to make the decisions and to make the right decisions. Australia has suffered heavily from the demeaning idea that the government always knows best with the unspoken assumption always in the background that only the government knows or should know anything. Vietnam was only the most tragic result of that belief; the idea that the government must always know best permitted the Liberals to lie their way into that war. They could never have got away with it otherwise. Over the whole range of policy at home and abroad this corrupting notion of a government monopoly of knowledge and wisdom has led to bad decisions and bad government. The Australian Labor Party will build into the administration of the affairs of this nation machinery that will prevent any government, Labor or Liberal, from ever again cloaking your affairs under excessive and needless secrecy. Labor will trust the people.,,,,
....A Labor Government will introduce a Freedom of Information Act along the lines of the United States legislation. This Act will make mandatory the publication of certain kinds of information and establish the general principle that everything must be released unless it falls within certain clearly defined exemptions. Every Australian citizen will have a statutory right to take legal action to challenge the withholding of public information by the Government or its agencies."