Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Questions without Notice
Freedom of Information
I thank the member for Page for her question and her advocacy for freedom of information. This is a very important reform. When Labor came to government in 2007, it undertook to overhaul Australia’s freedom of information laws. It did this to restore transparent government following a decade of secrecy and concealment. We abolished conclusive certificates and, in doing so, abolished the power of a minister to lock up information because it did not suit the government’s interests. Indeed Labor is continuing to restore openness and transparency and trust and integrity, with further reforms to our freedom of information laws to take effect from 1 November 2010. Next week marks the commencement of those laws and also marks the commencement of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The former Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan AO, will take up the role and will work with public sector agencies to improve community access to government-held information. Professor McMillan and the new Freedom of Information Commissioner will be independent advocates for FOI and will encourage the spread of pro-disclosure information and a pro-disclosure culture right across the government, which is a very good thing.
We recognise that these are important reforms. We also recognise that there has been a deterrent to having access to such information as a result of the fees that currently stand. As a result of that, we are looking to change the fees and charges—that is, to remove fees and charges, especially for people who seek personal information. Previously a person seeking access to their own information could be liable for fees and charges of up to $100. From next week there will be no charge for a person seeking access to personal information. For all applicants for general information the government has abolished the $30 application fee for FOI requests and also will abolish the $40 fee—