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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

While the cat was away......

Glad of any input on the mice at play. Certain to be plenty that I missed.

As noted here, no positive vibe concerning Australian membership and participation in the Open Government Partnership.

The Federal Government Commission of Audit report ventured into the open government space recommending among many 'courageous' initiatives, the non controversial improvement in timely access to data and better arrangements for reuse. Read Craig Thomler's take. The administrative changes noted by Renai LeMay don't seem conducive to this.

The Commission also proposed the merger of various tribunals into the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the consolidation of  a number of federal ombudsmen into an over-arching ombudsman, and in what is the latest in a long running campaign by the Department  to run it into the ground, that the Australian Law Reform Commission be absorbed into the Department of the Attorney General.

Senator Joe Ludwig in The Guardian wrote "Here's why a strong FOI act matters: it keeps the bastards honest." (An easy shot from the opposition front bench of course, but he's right. Here is a comment on Labor's FOI legacy.) Nothing from the government on the recommendations arising from the Hawke FOI review so, who knows, they may still speak to some outside government before picking up the bits the public servants like.

No major developments regarding the mild tugging (so far) to get the government to table documents in response to senate orders concerning Operation Sovereign Borders although  things on production generally are not as bleak and uniformly negative as they were after the first few months of this parliament. This Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee report in which the non government majority recommend further examination of the NSW model for resolving issues concerning production of documents came in for limited debate on 6 March. The matter seems certain to be taken further. 

Cai-Wikipedia Commons
Evidence before the the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption provided new depressing insights into the practice of the dark arts of influence peddling, and factional struggles within the Liberal Party. The Premier and the Minister for Police resigned, and fallout is continuing. Reform of political donation laws, lobbying rules, and disclosure requirements is in the air even before the Commission reports, although there are plenty of relevant Commission recommendations that go back years gathering dust in government in-trays.

The NSW mess has embroiled former Federal assistant treasurer Senator Arthur Sinodinis. As the Liberal Party at the Federal level has opposed previous attempts to do something more on political donations, interesting to see where things go from here in this and related areas. The Greens will introduce a bill next week to establish a Federal independent anti-corruption body. Flow on effects in other states seem likely.

Jack Waterford's account in The Canberra Times of what turned up in his ASIO file is good fun. You would like to think what he found recorded is just a reminder of the paranoia of earlier times, but who knows? The article is an extract from Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, edited by Meredith Burgmann.

Arrived back in Sydney during Privacy Awareness Week and managed to get to a breakfast debate yesterday on aspects of the ALRC Discussion Paper "Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Age." The proposal for a Commonwealth Act to establish a statutory cause of action for a serious invasion of privacy seems a lost cause before things go any further, given reported comment by Attorney General Brandis, reported in The Australian that "the Government has made it clear on numerous occasions that it does not support a tort of privacy." For those who don't give up easily on hopeless causes in the name of good public policy, submissions close 12 May. 

Australian Information Commissioner Professor McMillan outlined an alternative model based on amendments to the Privacy Act and the current regulatory system but this would involve amongst other major changes, removing current Privacy Act exemptions enjoyed by small business, the media and political parties and there isn't any likliehood of this government being interested in that either. Realistically, the far less satisfactory outcome 'leave it to the courts' is likely methinks.

(Addendum: Stilgherrian was there too, and wrote this account.)

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