I’ve been meaning to blog on the OIA review but have not had time to re-read the Law Commission report and see what parts the Govt is doing, and what has been kicked to touch. Idiot/Savant has though and blogs:
Back in July, the Law Commission published its review of the Official Information Act [PDF]. While it did suggest a number of important and useful changes to the Act – greater guidance from the Ombudsman, a new Information Commissioner to handle education and reporting, extending the Act to cover parliament and the courts – the overall thrust of the review was towards greater secrecy and less transparency. Given these conclusions, I would be quite happy if the review died quietly in a ditch somewhere and was forgotten.
And that is pretty much what has happened. Yesterday, the government finally published its response to the review, in which they said that tight budgets and existing legislative priorities ruled out the full rewrite the Law Commission wanted, and that they are just going to tinker around the edges a bit. Which given the Law Commission’s recommendations, can only be regarded as rearguard victory.
I/S also notes:
What we will be getting is better guidance from the Ombudsman, and an extension of the Act to cover the courts (both wins), combined with broader “commercial sensitivity” clauses (a loss, though Steven price thinks it won’t cover anything the Act isn’t already stretched to cover). The government will also be advancing changes around privacy in its review of the Privacy Act. So overall a narrow win, especially compared with the alternative.
I wasn’t as negative on the Law Commission review as I/S, so I hope some of their other recommendations do make some progress. But it is fair to say it is not a legislative priority.
There is one major recommendation that has not been responded to, and I would like to see the Government adopt – that some information be pro-actively released. Often you don’t know what information is there to ask for.
I’d like to see an automatic pro-active release requirement for all Cabinet level information. It might be say six months after authorship to allow Government time to make decisions, and of course normal rules would apply for exemptions. but wouldn’t it be great to have all Cabinet and Cabinet committee information automatically released in due course.
if the Government doesn’t pick this up, there could be an opportunity for Opposition parties to make this a policy, and implement it when they get a turn in Government.