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Home Features FOI laws: fixing the chilling effect on frank advice
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PEOPLEGeorge Brandis, Joe Ludwig, John Fraser, John Lloyd, Peter Timmins
DEPARTMENTSAttorney-General's Department, Australian Public Service Commission, Treasury
TAGS accountability, Ethics, FOI, Freedom of information legislation, Law, Peter Timmins, Politics, Public records, Right to Information Act, secrecy, transparency
Those who want more limitations on transparency are regaining ground in the freedom of information tug-of-war. If the government thumbs its nose at disclosure and public servants are all too happy to follow suit, are the laws a problem? Or should the culture of government match the law?
While freedom of information laws are designed to promote transparency and accountability, they also turn full and accurate record-keeping from a standard responsibility into a frightening risk.
The path to workable compromise on FOI might be found in surveying public servants about their attitudes and concerns about disclosure laws, one former government lawyer has suggested, or taking responsibility away from agencies’ legal divisions.
Freedom of information and privacy law specialist Peter Timmins welcomes the Tasmanian government’s recent directive that documents released under its Right to Information law be published online within 48 hours, but he says it’s “dark days” at the Commonwealth level.
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Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.
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