Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tasmania's New Premier Keeping Options Open on FOI

Hansard 28 May 2008

Mr BARTLETT - I am clearly on the record as saying that I am open to looking at anything we can do as a new government to strengthen our democracy and strengthen trust in that democracy. I have already had some conversations with academics about the FOI laws in this State. I have been watching the debate closely in other States as well. I will be taking further advice about the act as it currently stands, its sense of longevity and how it might improved in the future.

I will have to chase these mysterious academics down to find out what they have been discussing. Although I do have a rain check to meet with the then Deputy Premier (now Premier) at some uncertain time in the future.

Have always been bemused at the Tasmanian Government's reluctance (both Liberal and ALP governments)to sit down and talk about FOI. The only time I got to make any direct representations was with Peter Patmore over lunch at the Vietnamese Kitchen in June 1999.

“Mr GROOM - Two years ago you said you were looking at a two-paged paper from Rick Snell and you said you were preparing legislation. That was in the Estimates of 1999. I have a little marker here. It was an interesting discussion then. You said you had had the meeting with Rick Snell from the university last week - this is in June 1999 - and you asked him what he thought might be appropriate. Funnily enough, he had it all typed out - two pages of it. You took it from him and 'that is going to be the subject of a discussion brief from my department'. You had had an expert, you said, saying where you should go with FOI and you indicated you were proceeding with that and would be making a public statement when you were in a position to give a considered response.


Mr GROOM - Are you able to give a considered response now, two years later?

Dr PATMORE - I think I have had sufficient time to give a considered response, yes. The major change was of course the conclusive certificates; we identified that before the election as one of the major issues. We have provided the Ombudsman with an additional $100 000 to assist. On administrative law, we expanded the Ombudsman's role and there is a plan for the creation of a new administrative appeals tribunal, a division of the Magistrates Court, so that is part of the Ombudsman's role, not necessarily with FOI, and I am currently looking at some aspects of FOI….. Tuesday June 5 Estimates Committee B (Patmore) Part 1 Pages 1-69.

In the end Dr Patmore got annoyed when the Greens introduced a private member's bill on conclusive certificates which the Government supported but which ended any more interest in FOI reform.

Since that time I have been engaged in giving advice and being sought for input from everywhere except 15 Murray Street Hobart.


Gustav said...

Dear Rick

Why is any government afraid of the truth?

Particularly when it relates to "non-security issues" such as our natural resources?

Why isn't FOI at the forefront of each democracy?

My view is that FOI is the foundation of a democracy. Yet how many people do you know who cast their vote based on the FOI position of a candidate?

Perhaps we need stories of the importance of FOI in a democracy and we need to shine the FOI light on dark places within our political structures.

Do you have case studies that you would be willing to share with the readers of your blog on how FOI has influenced decision making for the better around the world?

Gustav said...

Dear Rick

I have added a link to your FOI blog to my blog Nine Worlds.

I hope you do not mind.

Have a good day.

Best regards