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Monday, February 18, 2013

Hawke review almost slips under Estimates radar

Last week both Senator Faulkner and Senator Rhiannon during Senate Estimates for the Attorney General's Department signaled their intention to ask questions about the Hawke review of the Freedom of Information Act but ended up sticking with the Open Government Partnership for almost the entire alloted time. Senator Rhiannon managed just a couple of questions about the review's limited public visibility, received confirmation only one media release was issued and that the review was advertised on AG's website and, that more than 70 submissions had been received

Senator Rhiannon was right about the low visibility

And as there are only 60 published submissions, Dr Hawke must have more than 10 that were submitted on the basis of confidentiality. Interesting. Personal stories perhaps? Presumably no agency submissions in this category?

The Hansard extract follows

Attorney General's Portfolio

David Fredericks, Deputy Secretary, Civil Justice and Legal Services Group.

Senator RHIANNON:...  I understand that not a single media release was issued by the AG's and there were no speeches, events or issues paper on the Hawke review. Is that the case?
Mr Fredericks : It is the case that there has been no issues paper released for that review. Of course—
Senator RHIANNON: I said 'media releases, speeches—
Mr Fredericks : I cannot answer in relation to media releases. I can say, however, that the terms of reference are posted on the AGD website. I should also just note, Senator, that as a consequence of the review being undertaken and the reference to it on the website, more than 70 submissions have been received in response.
Senator RHIANNON: It does seem quite an unfortunate state of affairs, after what we have just been exploring on the international stage, how little public exposure this has been given.
Mr Fredericks : Senator, I have just been informed that there was in fact a media release by the Attorney-General at the time. I do not have the date of that media release.
Senator RHIANNON: So, apart from that one media release—and if you need to take this on notice, I understand—could you outline how this review has been promoted?
Mr Fredericks : Yes, I will take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Will the Attorney-General consider widely advertising a further call for public submissions on any draft bill amending the FOI legislation that could arise as a result of the review?
Mr Fredericks : In fairness, that would ultimately be a decision for the Attorney at the time. I would need to take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: Would the department consider making a recommendation along those lines, to maximise public awareness and involvement?
Senator Ludwig: They will take it on notice and check with the Attorney-General.
Senator RHIANNON: Can you outline a timeline on what month we could see draft legislation?
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Chair.

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