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freedom of information « Previous | |Next »
September 7, 2006

The High Court 's judgement to uphold the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal against the Freedom of Information appeal by The Australian came as a shock. The Australian's editor Michael McKinnon had sought to obtain information on matters including personal taxation bracket creep and the number of wealthy Australians claiming the first home buyer’s grant.The High Court decided that the Howard Government's (ie., Peter Costello's) reasons for issuing conclusive certificates were reasonable and rational.

I had naively expected a ruling in favour of increased freedom of information, as it is a foundation of informed citizenship and deliberative democracy. On the surface it looks as if the High Court's 3 (Hayne, Heydon and Callinan JJ) -2 (Gleeson CJ and Kirby J) decision has given support to the practices of governments to suppress information that is simply embarrassing or politically inconvenient in the name of it being contrary to the public interest. It has effectively killed off FOI applications that seek information on substantive matters of public policy.


Governments--both state and federal---have become very skilled at managing the information flow. That means a reform of the 1982 FoI Act is now necessary to place accountibility constraints on the capacity of federal and state government secrecy and information tampering. Previous reform proposals, as well as reports recommending change, to make FOI work have been ignored. What should be removed, in light of the High Court's decision, is the right of ministers to issue conclusive certificates for internal working documents.

Is the federal ALP up to the task? It promises reform but its track record is otherwise.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:56 PM | | Comments (0)