FOI, frankness & formulating policy under the cone of silence

Over-classification and ‘policy advice by post-it note’ has become the norm, says former Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe after canvassing the views of his departmental secretary colleagues. Rather than fight it, extend protections to deliberative documents.

A greater range of deliberative documents should be covered by protections similar to cabinet-in-confidence classification, says former departmental secretary Andrew Metcalfe, to restore the trust and frankness between officials and ministers.

Policy formation “has been adversely impacted by the potential of disclosure of deliberative material” argued the former Immigration secretary at last week’s Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) conference.

Andrew Metcalfe

Andrew Metcalfe

In a talk entitled “Policy advice by post-it note”, Metcalfe added to previous comments from Treasury secretary John Fraser and Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd that the possibility of advice to ministers being publicly exposed had led to much politically sensitive material never being written down, or scrawled on non-disclosable post-it notes.

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  • Damian

    So basically it is like the politically correct notions we are supposed to espouse but behind closed doors we are saying what we like. If your ideas are above board then why should you worry what possible outcomes of disclosure are. In the end it will keep people on their toes and formulate more honest practice.