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Govt committee report upholds Brandis weakening of FOI

The Greens dissenting report on the FOI Bill before the Senate recommends that the legislation is not passed and that the Coalition government establish a comprehensive review into the workings of FOI as recommended by the Hawke Review.

Greens democracy spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said, "The Bill is a setback for FOI and privacy protection and is effectively another broken commitment by Attorney General Senator George Brandis and Prime Minister Tony Abbott to lead an open and accountable government.

"The abolition of the Office of the Australian Information Office undermines the Attorney General's stated commitment to strengthen FOI.

"In opposition Senator Brandis was a strong critic of Labor's FOI failings.

"The new FOI arrangements set out in the bill that put a starting cost of $861 on all appeals that now have to go through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will be a deterrent for many individuals.

"The government's attempt to justify the axing of the OAIC because of delays with processing cases did not gain support from inquiry witnesses.

"Even the government majority report noted that they ‘did not receive evidence indicating that AAT review would necessarily be faster than review by the OAIC'.

"I am concerned about potential conflicts of interest in how the Attorney General's department undertakes its work. To allow the AG to define categories of information that should not be published including information from his own department is not in the spirit of open government and a healthy FOI regime.

"If the Attorney General wants to be true to his fine words on FOI uttered when he was in opposition he should put this bill on hold and kick start the comprehensive review of FOI that the Hawke Review recommended," said Senator Rhiannon.

Contact: Brami Jegan 0487 350 880

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