Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Budget allocates transitional cash to Office of Australian Information Commissioner

Enough to continue to carry out its Freedom of Information functions at a reduced level for a period at least. But the fine print reveals the government hasn't given up on plans to abolish the office.

You find nothing about the OAIC in the Attorney General's Media Statement on Budget Measures.

The Portfolio Budget Statement (pdf) reads as if the government has reversed the decision in last year's budget to abolish the office.

The PBS refers to the OAIC as is, outlining the freedom of information and privacy functions and explains (emphasis added):
In the 2014–15 Budget, the Australian Government announced that the OAIC would cease operation and new arrangements for privacy and FOI regulation would commence from 1 January 2015. The new arrangements included the establishment of an Office of the Privacy Commissioner; the right to external merits review of FOI decisions to lie directly with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal; and complaints about FOI administration to lie directly with the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Funding transfers to other entities to facilitate these changed arrangements occurred as part of the 2014–15 Budget.
As the legislation giving effect to these changes has not passed Parliament, the OAIC remains responsible for privacy and FOI regulation. Additional resources will be provided to the OAIC for the exercise of FOI functions, and the funding appropriated to the Australian Human Rights Commission for privacy functions will instead be appropriated to the OAIC in 2015–16.
The allocation in 2015-16 is around $12 million, with average staffing of 72 compared to 64  in 2014-15.

There's a hint about the real situation in the fact that nothing is included in the forward estimates for the three subsequent years.

Over to Budget paper No 2 where we find 
"transitional funding of $1.7 million will be provided to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner for its functions in 2015‑16, pending the implementation of the measure Smaller Government — Privacy and Freedom of Information functions — new arrangements." 
This is the bill that has been before the Senate since October. All the indications are that it does not enjoy majority support. (The Ministerial Paper on Smaller Government issued last December makes only a passing reference to legislation to 'divide' the office but no comfort from that. Monday's Smaller Government Reform agenda doesn't mention it at all)) 

The government plans to send the OAIC into 2015-16 with the same constraints and uncertainty that made 2014-15 a horror year. 

And a step backward in the long journey towards transparent accountable government.

Budget Paper No 2 also reveals:
  • an allocation of "$4.2 million over four years for the Privacy Commissioner to provide oversight of privacy implications arising from the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 and the Counter‑Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014." 
  • an allocation of $254.7 million over four years from 2015‑16 to support the initial implementation of the Digital Transformation Agenda, which will deliver a better user experience for individuals and businesses engaging with government, reduce red tape and increase the efficiency of government service delivery. This measure includes the provision of $95.4 million over four years from 2015‑16 to establish the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) as a new Executive Agency within the Communications portfolio.
No mention anywhere of the Open Government Partnership. 

In tallying winners and losers from the budget, despite Minister Turnbull's hopes for the DTO, count open transparent government as a loss.

Media coverage:
 IT News

Social Media

My tweet in the early hours is also floating around out there with welcome retweets:

OAIC gets some petty cash while clings to bill to abolish the office


No comments:

Post a Comment