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Calls for more to be done on Freedom of Information laws

THE head of the Office of the Australian Information Commission has called on the Federal Government to improve Freedom of Information laws, in a submission to a review of the laws.

Commissioner Professor John McMillan and the Freedom of Information Commissioner Dr James Popple were involved in writing the submission.

While the submission acknowledged the Labor Government's progress towards its 2007 commitment to "open government", it has called for more to be done.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner itself was an early result of that promise, when it was established in 2010, after reforms of the FOI Act in that year.

Proposals were made by the commissioner included regulatory streamlining of the act, to prevent unnecessary delays in releasing information.

"Rather than replacing the old FOI Act, the 2010 amendments were woven into the original structure," the commissioner wrote.

"This has resulted in a piece of legislation that is unwieldy, confusing, and at times, difficult to interpret."

The current review, led by Professor Allan Hawke, was ordered by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, to improve the Act.

But since ordering the review, Ms Roxon has made public comments outlining potential increases to application costs among other changes which could make it more difficult for the public and media to access government records.

The commissioner has also called for a complete national plan on FOI laws, a renewal of its commitments and a promotion campaign of open government reforms.

"A great deal has been done across government in the last two years to embed those reforms in government practise," the commissioner wrote.

"However, there has not since been the same explicit promotion of open government reforms and cultural change by the government as occurred in 2009-10."

The review was expected to be completed in April, with the full report tabled in parliament.

Topics:  federal government, freedom of information


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