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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Indian cricket not just tested on Australian pitches

Wikimedia Commons Ricky212.
Unlike Australia's access to information laws, the Indian Right to Information Act (s 2(h) may be extended to cover any non-government organisation substantially financed (directly or indirectly) by funds provided by the national or a state government. While Cricket Australia only has to worry about winning the cricket, its Indian counterpart is facing an off-field challenge-that it should be made subject to the RTI act. The Times of India reports:
"Ignoring objections raised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the government said there were reasonable grounds for bringing the organisation under the Right to Information Act. In a seven-page written statement submitted before the Central Information Commission, the sports ministry said although there was no direct funding of BCCI, it got "substantial indirect funding" from the government in the form of revenue foregone like "concessions in income tax, customs duty" and land at concessional rates for stadiums.

The ministry also argued that BCCI performed functions akin to state and 'public duties' by selecting national teams and representing India in international events. Citing the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, the ministry said, "Since the name Board of Control for Cricket in India suggests patronage of the government, the BCCI may have to drop the name 'India' from its name in case they continue to act as 'private body'."

It added, "In view of the above, the present position of the government of India in this regard is that there exists just and reason
able grounds for BCCI to be declared as a 'public authority' under the Right to Information Act, 2005." 
Cricket Australia and many other sports and other groups in Australia receive direct government funding, some very large amounts, but are not subject to freedom of information laws, as (to paraphrase and generalise) the laws don't extend beyond documents/information held by a government agency or a contractor carrying out a service to the public on behalf of an agency. Government funding doesn't do the trick.

Except in Tasmania. The Right to Information Act  (s 8) provides:
"If a private organisation is funded by or performs a role of a public authority, a person is entitled to the information related to –
(a) that performance; or
(b) the progress of work; or
(c) the evaluation of work; or
(d) the expenditure of public moneys –
 held by the public authority, unless the information is exempt information."

Has anyone in Tassie explored this?

There are of course lots of gaps in the coverage in all our information access laws that deserve re-examination. Just one example, the National E-Health Transition Authority with $90 million in Federal and state government funding but as a company is safely beyond any FOI net.(Update-NeHTA's FOI-free status featured in this article the next day by Karen Dearne in Australian IT.)

And then there was the announcement in March 2009 that the Australian Law Reform Commission would be asked to examine the case for extending freedom of information legislation to the private sector. This decision disappeared completely from sight when then Special Minister of State Senator Faulkner became Minister for Defence later that year.

Cricket Australia and the rest are left to get on with winning.

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