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Monday, December 31, 2007

Disclosure can help achieve policy outcomes

Summer holiday blog

Most Australian governments continue to be over cautious about release of information concerning compliance by private sector bodies or government agencies with policies or standards that apply, or should apply, in the provision of goods or services that have public health or safety implications.

So congratulations to the Queensland Government for its plans to disclose compliance notices issued to day care centres that failed to comply with state standards. As the article recounts, recent attempts to access the list of centres under Freedom of Information failed - the business interests of the centres was said to outweigh any public interest in disclosure.

But another brick bat for the NSW Government for a decision to refuse access to the names of schools where the school canteen was found to have failed food hygiene standards.

The NSW Office of State Revenue recently decided to release details about fines imposed by local councils including $900 imposed by Hunters Hill Council on the owner of Cucinetta for placing two non approved pot plants on the pavement.

But no, the NSW Food Authority decided we shouldn't know which school canteens (or restaurant) sold food that led to a gastro outbreak, had mice dropping in pie ovens, cockroaches in sandwiches and dirty nappies changed near food! Geez.

Our regulatory policy buffs should do a bit more research and reading about the positive policy effects of disclosure of information about compliance with the law. They could start with "Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promises of Transparency" by researchers at Harvard University.

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