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Monday, February 13, 2012

Cain urges serious FOI reform in Victoria

Former Victorian premier John Cain whose government was the first to introduce state freedom of information legislation in 1983 writes in The Saturday Age about the politicisation of the FOI process through the involvement of ministerial offices, and the return to an obsession with secrecy in the years since passage of the law . He argues that getting back to open society values should be the priority for Premier Ted Baillieu. Cain deplored the cheap shots in the debate on the Freedom of Information Commissioner bill in state Parliament last week, commenting that structural change in review processes was neither here nor there
 What needs to be corrected is the 30-year transformation of FOI into the world of political infighting, because that is where it is now, and has been for some years: a world where politicians say one thing in opposition and do another in government.
An independent commissioner should be part of the deal, but the Victorian legislation is limited in what it seeks to achieve and fails to bring the act into line with best practice. Why anyone would thinks the modest reforms proposed are anywhere near enough is a mystery.

Elsewhere in the same paper on Saturday Rick Snell of the University of Tasmania said:
There had been ''serious cultural hostility or, at best, blatant indifference'' by many in leadership positions in public service, and a feeling by many public servants that the FOI process was a game where they could bend the rules, ignore the rules or simply stack the deck in favour of non-disclosure..


  1. What would be the benifit if an independent commissioner would be the part of the deal?

  2. Ownership for one-FOI in Victoria as elsewhere was orphaned quickly after birth. The commissioner should provide leadership and nurturing, and exercise some influence throughout government on open government issues. But the bill to create the position falls a long way short. A step forward, but hardly a biggy.