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Friday, June 15, 2012

Victorian FOI commissioner will be busy in 2012-13

The Victorian Parliament passed legislation to establish the office in February. No appointment has been announced and there is nothing I can find in the public domain about where things stand. Except the start date for the legislation is no later than 1 December 2012.

There is a scrap or two in the  Budget papers. Nothing like last year when the plan received headline status with an announcement of $7.9 million to establish the office, although the fine print (Budget Paper 3 (Chapter 1 Election Commitments p 54) revealed this was spread over four years with $1million allocated in the first year, $2.3 million in 2012-2013, and $2.2 million in each of the next two years.

This year the only mention is at pages 179 and 181 of Budget Paper no 3, where "enhancing government transparency through the establishment on an independent Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner" is bundled together in two sets of disparate outputs of the Department of Justice. It's unclear what the money situation is as there is nothing specific about past or future expenditure on the office. The combined allocations come with a note: the "2012-13 Target has been reduced due to efficiencies reflecting government savings." 

But somewhere, someone must be gearing up to deliver.

At page 182, performance measures for the office are mixed in with those for others but in 2012-13 the office of the commissioner is to complete 100 complaints, undertake 20 training and education activities, achieve 100% compliance with statutory and other agreed time limits, and rate "high" on applicant satisfaction with review and complaint processes. What this note means for commencement of the scheme is unclear: "The 2012-13 Target takes into account the legislation’s default commencement date of 1 December 2012."

The Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner (page 183) was allocated $2.4 million ("reduced due to efficiencies reflecting government savings"), $2.6 million, $2.6 million and $2.5 million in each of the next four years. In 2012-13, performance targets for that office are 700 "compliance activities", 195 "Privacy Awareness activities", high rating in client feedback of satisfaction with complaint handling and training services provided, and 90% statutory or agreed timelines met-perhaps reflecting (in contrast to the FOI commissioner's 100% target) some realism that comes from a presence at the table when these things are settled.

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