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Monday, May 12, 2014

Office of Australian Information Commissioner faces the chop

The table published by The Australian today alongside its report about the carnage and turmoil about to hit Canberra as a result of tomorrow night's budget (in the name of abolitions and mergers to "eliminate waste") includes the news that the functions of the Office of Australian Information Commissioner are to be "divided among Australian Human Rights Commission, Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Commonwealth Ombudsman, Attorney General's Department." 

No further detail, so we will see what tomorrow night brings.

But this is a big step in the wrong direction across all three functions of the Office, information access, privacy protection and information policy functions.

At a time when the international trend is greater recognition of the importance of these functions, demand for more transparency and accountability, greater concern about privacy, and appreciation of the economic benefits of more open government as well as the need for strong, visible, well resourced leadership to take things forward, the Abbott government is busy dismantling, dividing, and burying.  

Presumably the Privacy Commissioner will be heading back to the AHRC, information access review matters to the AAT (at the current rate, $816 a pop?) and the Ombudsman, and policy to AGD - where these functions were located before the 2009-2010 reforms that included the establishment of the OAIC.

Some will welcome the demise of the OAIC particularly those in government who are all for "the good old days."

No doubt some savings figures will be plucked from somewhere to justify the decision but there is no sign that it comes from rational, considered, evidence based decision making on how best to manage the public interests at stake when it comes to transparency, accountability and privacy protection.

Advance Australia backwards more like it.

1 comment:

  1. I am very concerned that for a government that takes every opportunity to promote itself as forward thinking and for all the people of Australia, it goes out of its way to block its actions from being accountable. It is even bringing back the old argument that public servants should not be held accountable or they will decline to give advice. A big backward step.