Let there be light

CLA strongly supports transparent and accountable government that, in part, is enabled by strong freedom of information legislation. CLA has welcomed the tabling of a Bill in the ACT Legislative Assembly that addresses the increasing tendency to reduce accountability and transparency of government actions through restricting access to documents.

Media Release

14 Nov 07

Civil Liberties Australia Director, Lance Williamson, today welcomed the Government Transparency Legislation Amendment Bill 2007 which was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly by Liberal MLA, Vicki Dunne.

“This piece of legislation addresses longstanding problems with freedom of information laws in the Territory,” Mr Williamson said.

“The Bill removes the ability of Government Departments to hide behind ‘conclusive certificates’, which are a device that Ministers can use to completely undermine the operation of Freedom of Information laws.

“Governments of both political persuasions have a long history of using conclusive certificates to prevent the release of important information because it might cause them political discomfort or embarrassment.  That is not how the FOI laws were intended to operate when they were introduced.

“The Government recently used conclusive certificates to block the release of information relating to school closures,” he said. “That was a blatant abuse of process and the Freedom of Information Act.

“Ms Dunne’s Bill essentially gives effect to what is Federal Labor policy – in recent weeks Federal Labor has announced that, if elected, it would abolish conclusive certificates and create a Freedom of Information Commissioner.

“If the ACT Government fails to follow suit it will clearly be out of step with its federal colleagues.  That would be a retrograde step.

“CLA calls on the government to honour its commitments to open and transparent government and give effect to Ms Dunne’s Bill,” Mr Williamson said.

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