Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Sen John and Premier Joh – a tale of two FOIs

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-07-23

Finally, the KRudd team takes some action that is undeniably good… and a bummer that Vic Premier Joh Brumby moves in the opposite direction.

Two stories next to each other on p4 of The Age (2008-07-23) illustrate the difference between the Federal (getting better) and Victorian (going from bad to disgusting) Labor governments.

It’s an A-minus for Senator Faulkner on cutting the power of ministers and departments to issue conclusive certificates that arbitrarily hide embarassing information ("Rudd move on transparency" in The Age, the Ministerial Media Release and Ministerial Speech Transcript).

Of course, this can be abused by hiding documents so nobody can request them.

Faulkner could get an A if he actually allows a whole-of-government Google to discover documents, even if the contents are not displayed, and an A-plus if he can force state governments to fall in line with the spirit of his changes.

Meanwhile, Joh Brumby considers basic information (including the list of top pokie venues and political polling) as top-secret… see "Top pokie sites, myki plans deemed top secret" in The Age.

John Taylor, senior freedom of information officer, found not a single page from two years of reports was fit for release because they were "internal working documents".  Mr Brumby’s own department has also this year used the "internal working documents" exemption in declining to release market research and polling.

I’ve sent Sen Faulkner the following message, and recommend that those of you interested in good governance, whatever your political color, give Faulkner a pat on the back:

Dear Senator Faulkner
I wish to thank you for your efforts to scrap unilateral power on “conclusive certificates” as outlined in your Freedom of Information reform speech 2008-07-22.
In my opinion, this is the most far-reaching action of the Rudd government so far, and will make retrograde steps by future federal governments more difficult – whatever their political color.
It’s a pity that the Victorian ALP government seems to be going in exactly the opposite direction.
There is no need to respond to this email…. I just wished you to know your efforts are appreciated.

See Also:

  • 2020 Gabfest Submission: Topic 9: Australian Governance" (2008-04-05) – look for the subheading "B: Improved utility and availability of government information"
  • Jacques Chester’s piece about same issue at Club Troppo – "My kilotalk submission" (2008-04-05), which includes

    "Google Government" should be a motto going forward.  FOI should be altered to place the emphasis on departments to decide at the point of creation whether a document is sensitive; the default should be full disclosure. All possible government documents and data should be accessible and queryable by any member of the public.

  • "Conclusive certificates gone the way of Howard" at VoiceOfTodaysApatheticYouth (2008-07-23)
  • For more background on Open Source Government, see the relevant category at tokblog (Tree of Knowledge).  I may have occasional quibbles with Tim’s I-love-the-Fed-ALP stance, but on many issues relating to open government, he is spot on.

2 Responses to “Sen John and Premier Joh – a tale of two FOIs”

  1. […] Bath likes the government’s new FOI reforms. [?] Share […]

  2. […] – but not for dummiesThe Continuing Benefits of a Labor Government : Tree of Knowledge on Sen John and Premier Joh – a tale of two FOIsDave Bath on Otways Carbon Capture: Dumb idea?Sen John and Premier Joh – a tale of two FOIs […]

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