Extensive Changes to Australia’s Freedom of Information Laws Welcomed

Canberra ( November 1, 2010

Freedom of Information Laws1 Extensive Changes to Australia’s Freedom of Information Laws Welcomed

Extensive Changes to Australia’s Freedom of Information Laws Welcomed

Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information Brendan O’Connor today welcomed the start of extensive changes to Australia’s freedom of information laws.

“Today marks a new era of transparency and accountability in government,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The reforms apply the principle that government information is a national resource – just like our water, our minerals and our beaches,” he said.

“Information is an asset for all to share in, wherever possible. It is not the possession of one agency or individual,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The new laws strike a balance between ensuring openness and accountability, while protecting some sensitive information that could risk lives or compromise national security.

“Since coming to office, the Federal Labor Government has led a wholesale revision of the way FOI requests are treated. A single public interest test will override previously allowed exemptions and new processes will compel a culture of disclosure,” Mr O’Connor said.

“And with new rules come new umpires – three Commissioners will oversee Privacy and FOI laws as part of the new Office of the Australian Information Commissioner,” Mr O’Connor said.

The Office begins operation today – headed by the Australian Information Commissioner Professor John McMillan AO, and supported by the Privacy Commissioner Tim Pilgrim and the new Freedom of Information Commissioner Dr James Popple.

“The Office is a specialist independent agency with the ability to review FOI decisions and investigate complaints.”

The reforms also slash fees from today.

  • application fees for FOI requests are abolished
  • fees for applications for internal review are abolished
  • the first five hours of decision-making time will be free for all FOI applicants
  • a person seeking access to their own information won’t face any charges at all
  • no charge if an agency exceeds the statutory time limit to respond to a request

The changes that take effect today follow an earlier move by the Federal Labor Government to abolish conclusive certificates.

Media Adviser: Jayne Stinson

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