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Expand FOI logs to include rejected requests, new bill proposes

The Australian Public Service Commission boss has rankled the Labor opposition with his comments about freedom of information laws having gone further they were intended.

In his first public speaking event since becoming commissioner, John Lloyd (pictured) took on the value of FOI laws, declaring them “very pernicious”:

“I think they have gone beyond perhaps what they intended to do and I think they do make us a bit over cautious and make some of the advice more circumspect than it should be, and I hope the government will address that and perhaps reassess the extent of some of those FOI laws.”

Senator Joe Ludwig cited and hit back at those comments today, while introducing his private members bill Freedom of Information Amendment (Requests and Reasons) Bill 2015. Ludwig said in a statement:

“We must be vigilant to government closing off access to information that [the] public has the right to see.”

The bill would require agencies to expand their current FOI public disclosure logs to include all rejected and amended FOI requests, as well as the reasons for those decisions.

Ludwig said his bill was aimed at striking the right balance between the need for some confidentiality in governance and the legitimate right of the public to know about the operation of departments and rules and practices which govern decision-making. He said his proposed amendments would:

  • ensure transparency and accountability are included within the framework of government decisions concerning freedom of information requests;
  • allow the public to view requests that have been made and the reasons why documents were or were not released;
  • allow applicants seeking similar documents to build upon previous requests; and
  • reduce duplication of requests.

The balance had swung in favour of secrecy, Ludwig said:

“That’s why I have introduced this bill to, amongst other things, allow the public to know exactly why an FOI request has been rejected or edited by a department.”

Read more at The Mandarin: Government off the record: the limits of transparency

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The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.