FOI laws: fixing the chilling effect on frank advice


Protected Files

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.

Peter Timmins

Peter Timmins

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.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.