Australia's freedom of information (FOI) laws have been given a very poor rating by an international survey released today. Greens Senator and democracy spokesperson Lee Rhiannon has called on the Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information Brendan O'Connor to commit to closing the loopholes in the FOI system.
"Minister O'Connor should be embarrassed that Australia's FOI laws scored so poorly compared to other countries. Australia should be leading the pack", said Senator Rhiannon.
"Australia scored 86 out of a possible 150 and was ranked well behind countries such as the UK, the USA and New Zealand.
"Factors that drove down Australia's ranking included excessive wriggle room on time limits, the fact that fees are not limited to the cost of reproduction and the lack of sanctions for improper public servant conduct such as destroying documents.
"The government committed to reviewing FOI fees and charges over a year ago but they sat on their hands until the review was triggered last week. Access to information should not be determined by the ability of people to pay for it.
"The Labor government have made significant changes to FOI laws but loopholes clearly remain.
"Parliamentary departments, private sector bodies who receive significant government funding and intelligence organisations are exempted from Australian FOI laws. The CIA in the United States and M15 and M16 in Britain are not given this protection.
"Access to information is the foundation of a robust democracy.
"It is essential that Minister O'Connor commit to closing the loopholes in FOI laws to ensure that the public have the information they need to hold our elected representatives to account", said Senator Rhiannon.
The survey, conducted by Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy in Canada, is here.