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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Queensland review Discussion Paper released

The Discussion Paper "Enhancing Open and Accountable Government" released today by the Solomon Review, has the intended purpose "to raise the major issues that will be considered by the Panel appointed by the Queensland Government to recommend ways to improve and modernise the Queensland Freedom of Information Act 1992".

Full FOI Review Discussion paper

It covers the waterfront by listing a whole range of issues and posing a series of questions that go to the heart of the open government debate - what should legislation seek to achieve in the light of technological and other changes to the Westminster system; how to promote pro active disclosure and access to personal information outside FOI; should the legislation cover the public sector comprehensively, and possibly be extended to others including the private sector; how should the balance be struck between the public right to know and the need for some confidentiality in the conduct of government functions; what are reasonable processing standards and appropriate review mechanisms.

The Paper draws extensively on writings about FOI reform by leading Australian authorities, Rick Snell (so many citations he might reasonably ask for a royalty) and Moira Patterson, and the Canadian Alasdair Roberts. It's all very progressive stuff. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, advocates the status quo or questions what are clearly moves towards what the Premier of Queensland said was her objective in establishing the review: a complete overhaul and an entirely new Freedom of Information Act.

The Paper provides plenty of food for thought for all FOI policy makers around the country. Would that they and their ministers are interested.

Submissions are invited closing 7 March.

The Review Panel and the Australian Law Reform Commission (with a reference on Federal Freedom of Information in the last days of the Howard Government) will hold a joint public seminar on 6 March - contact the Panel Secretary by 29 February.

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