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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Federal Labor: limited "new thinking" about FOI and transparency

The newspaper headlines about the Labor Party National Conference last weekend have understandably focused on industrial relations, climate change and uranium, and on Kevin Rudd's "success" in repositioning the Party as "new thinkers" about our future.

The Party platform discussed and adopted at the Conference of course covers lots of other issues, and Labor is yet to put on their site the final version of the document.

What we know is that Chapter 11 of the draft "Reforming Government" submitted to the conference included a commitment to restore public confidence in government, and "improve the openness, transparency and accountability of parliament, government and the public service". Further details of this part of the draft are here.

Apart from the rhetoric, specific commitments on Freedom of Information reform are limited, and as follows:
53. Labor will promote transparency and open government through improved freedom of information legislation. Conclusive certificates will be abolished and internal working documents that do not compromise national security will be accessible. Reports on the operation of government and government-funded agencies will be regularly tabled in parliament.
54. Freedom of information provisions should be available to all. Labor will ensure that the costs involved in using freedom of information procedures do not put them out of reach of the community.
55. Labor will ensure that considerations relating to outsourcing, privatisation, notions of commercial confidentiality and corporatisation are not used as excuses to allow government and government-funded agencies to escape the requirements of open government and accountability. The rights of clients and other recipients of such services, including rights to access to information, privacy, correction of inaccurate information and, where necessary, redress, will be maintained.
I'll keep track of the final version when this becomes available.

Let's hope in the lead up to the Federal election later this year that transparency and accountability (or the current lack thereof) bite as election issues and we get something more comprehensive and specific from Labor, a mea culpa from the Government and a commitment to fundamental reform.

Well there is nothing wrong with hoping......

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