The Senate inquiry into the FOI system has reported today and recommends an urgent investigation into the deep dysfunction within the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner as identified by former FOI Commissioner Hardiman.
The report finds the FOI scheme is not fit for purpose and is creating serious barriers to access to information.
The 15 recommendations of the committee are designed to speed up access to information by:
- Substantially increasing resources to the FOI system to remove historic backlogs
- Abolishing the pointless and time-wasting internal review process
- Simplifying and streamlining the independent merits review process overseen by the FOI Commissioner, and
- Allowing those seeking information to rapidly access the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to force the release of documents
These are realistic and achievable reforms that when adopted will provide essential accountability and transparency to the workings of the Commonwealth government.
Greens Senator and Committee member David Shoebridge said:
“The degree of dysfunction the committee observed at the most senior levels of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner was disturbing.
“The majority report calls for an urgent and independent review of the workplace behaviour matters within the OAIC that were raised by former FOI Commissioner Hardiman to address the dysfunction.
“It is hard to understand how the Attorney General thought it prudent to appoint two fresh statutory office holders to the OAIC without first addressing the extensive management and organisational failings we observed.
“These are credible, achievable and important reforms that will help turn around the mess that is FOI in 2023.
“Simplifying procedure, speeding up decisions and a serious investment in resources underpin these recommendations.
“I want to put on record the gratitude of my party, The Greens, for the courage and tenacity shown by Mr Hardiman in both his work as FOI Commissioner and his evidence to the Committee,” Senator Shoebridge said.