Greens Senator and democracy spokesperson Lee Rhiannon has made a submission to the federal review by Dr Allan Hawke AC into the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) and the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 (IC Act) and the extent to which those Acts and related laws continue to provide an effective framework for access to government information. You can download our submission below.
Summary of Recommendations
Recommendation 1: That the Attorney-General widely advertise a further call for public submissions on any draft bill amending FOI legislation that arises as a result of this review.
Recommendation 2: That the Gillard government agree to the case put for additional funding by the Australian Information Commissioner so his office can properly meet the objectives of the federal FOI legislation.
Recommendation 3: That additional resources are targeted to ensure that the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is able to complete its FOI merits review functions in a timely manner.
Recommendation 4: That the Gillard government more actively promote culture change within government agencies to proactively publish information about their activities. Consideration should be given to making it mandatory for agencies to publish information on their agencies that is currently optional, including information about agency priorities, finances, lists including agency contracts, grants and appointments, and links to data sets, submissions to other bodies, and policies.
Recommendation 5: That amendments be made to provide a 24 hour 'grace' period between when information is provided to an applicant and published in a disclosure log.
Recommendation 6: That consideration is given to amending the FOI Act to limit an agency's right to take a decision of the Information Commissioner to the AAT for further review to cases where there has been an error of law.
Recommendation 7: That no amendments be made to the FOI Act to exclude the Departments of the House of Representatives, the Senate and Parliamentary Services from the operation of the FOI Act.
Recommendation 8: That websites of all parliamentary departments should include up to date, easily searchable records of expenditure by MPs.
Recommendation 9: That the current exemption granted to intelligence agencies from FOI legislation be repealed.
Recommendation 10: That wherever possible information should be provided free of charge in an online public forum and this should be the principle that guides any government response to the OAIC review of fees and charges. In particular the recommendation to set a 40 hour cap on the processing of requests should be rejected.
Recommendation 11: That the review, in assessing whether it is necessary to minimise the regulatory and administrative burden, including costs, of the FOI regime on government agencies prioritises the important objectives of the FOI Act. These include promoting Australia's representative democracy by increasing public participation in Government processes and increasing scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government's activities.