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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bill to abolish office of information commissioner in the freezer, hopefully past use by date

Just for the sake of completeness - no Freedom of Information Amendment (New Arrangements) Bill listed in the Senate Order of Business for this last scheduled day of sittings for 2014. 

The bill still lies in the cooler ( at 9 in the Notice paper) but hopefully that's more like the deep freeze for something that should be well past its use by date when parliament resumes next year.

Ministers Pyne and Morrison continue to battle on to the last to try to win support for their bills from the six crossbenchers needed because of Labor and Greens opposition. However the government appears to have decided in the case of the FOI bill they couldn't win the crossbenchers over with such a weak case and potential headlines (that mightn't accurately sum things up) such as 'Minister pleads for crossbench support to close down open government' might add to an already bad year end look.

For calling this one out, full credit to  
  • Labor (Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and his staff;  Senator Jacinta Collins during the Senate Committee inquiry and Senator John Faulkner in particular); the Greens who  also all  knew this was a dead cat from the get go, in particular Adam Bandt who spoke up in the House debate and Senator Lee Rhiannon for strong questioning during the Senate hearing; and crossbenchers who all listened particularly senators Madigan, Xenophon, Day and Leonhjelm and their staff;
  • those who lodged weighty submissions on why this was not a good move at the last moment when the bill was referred to the Senate committee, views the government could have heard before it announced its intentions seven months ago or in the meantime if they had bothered to talk to anyone outside government;
  • the many active citizens who can recognise a big backward step for open transparent and accountable government when they see it and did something about it, particularly to spread the word and contact the crossbenchers to make sure they understood the adverse consequences that would flow if the bill passed. It's risky to name names but badge of honour to Tim Smith of Accountability Roundtable, Mike Ahrens and Alan Wolfe of Transparency International, Matthew Landauer, Kat Szuminska, and Henare Deegan of Open Australia Foundation, and Ed Santow and Sophie Farthing of Public Interest Advocacy Centre.(Sorry for a couple of misspells in the original.) The rest of you know who you are and the twittersphere was a wonder to behold. Thank you.
  • those in the media mainstream who gave the issue some coverage at least, Will Okenden for one snippet on ABC PM, Michael McKinnon for one piece on ABC online, Sean Parnell of The Australian, Paul Farrell of The Guardian and Markus Mannheim of The Canberra Times, who also published a great an op ed way back by Emeritus Professor Richard Mulgan; and Professor Julian Disney of the Australian Press Council for his personal testimony to the Senate committee. But disappointing that other journalists decided there was no story in this, and that the media coalition Australia's Right to Know was almost alone in supporting a bill of sorts, telling the Senate committee Unhappily and reluctantly we support some form of bill getting through in order to create a review process.." which turned out to be wrong in any event.
We need more strong voices out there for open transparent and accountable government. 

Onward to 2015! 

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