PIAC identifies problems with radical proposed changes to federal FOI law

PIAC gave evidence to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, pointing out problems with the Freedom of Information (New Amendments) Bill 2014.

If passed by the Australian Parliament, the Bill will abolish the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – even though there has been almost no public consultation or published cost-benefit analysis about this radical change.

The Bill means the loss of an independent champion of open and transparent government. If passed, any appeal against a government agency’s decision to refuse access to a document will be heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. With an $861 fee for most appeal applications, this option will be prohibitively expensive for many people – including the disadvantaged people that PIAC assists.

‘FOI is vital to ensure government remains accountable. Based on its casework experience, PIAC believes this Bill will undermine the objectives of the FOI Act by making it harder for valuable information to be made public,’ said PIAC CEO, Edward Santow.

‘At a minimum, PIAC has recommended that the Bill be deferred so that a proper inquiry into the Bill’s proposals can take place.’

Read PIAC’s written submission to the Committee here.

Photo: Flickr/Unk’s Dump Truck

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