Good news: The autocratic future of FOI in Australia
Wednesday September 13th 2006, 4:57 pm

I bet you thought Smirky Pete was a RepublicanThe purpose of the Australian Freedom of Information Act is to put government documents into the hands of the governed. FOI serves the public interest by making information about government decisions available to voters, some of which the government would clearly prefer the people did not know.

The High Court’s recent decision to permit politicians to use ‘conclusive certificates’ to ignore FOI works much to the public detriment. ‘Conclusive certificates‘ allow government to quash FOI requests on whim and will- without judicial review- wholly defeating the purpose.

Journalist for The Australian, Michael McKinnon, lodged FOI requests for information about the income levels of claimants of the ‘first time homebuyer grant’ scheme and figures on how much tax revenue the government was making from ‘bracket creep.’

McKinnon’s requests were denied via Treasurer Peter Costello’s ‘conclusive certificate’ in which Costello maintained that release of this information was not in the public interest. This is a key example of a politically motivated, whimsical abuse of power by the government of the day, the very sort of abuse that checks and balances in mature democratic systems are designed to halt.

The High Court’s decision to permit ‘conclusive certificates’ facilitates autocratic government and allows bad government to carry on in secret, shielded from unflattering press coverage.

Australian FOI must be reformed, or the only news we’ll get is ‘good’ news… fit for a queen.

Good government have no need to hide.


2 Comments so far
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Doesn’t this just speak volumes about the health of our democracy? Sorry Costello, Howard and co… you are not autocrats ruling over your peons. You’re OUR bloody employees, and its high time that you lot got used to the levels accountability and transparency that are the norm in corporate governance these days.

It would have been nice to see labor come on board on this one, but I guess they too prefer to see our citizens kept in the dark and fed on shit.

BAH! A pox on both your houses.

Comment by Marcus 09.13.06 @ 11:26 pm

Marcus, perhaps it’s time for that Australian republic that Costello claims to favour. With that should come a new constitution, where core principles such as ‘a government of, by and for the people’ are enunciated.

When government abuses power, concrete definitions of rights are required. ‘She’ll be right’ just isn’t good enough any more.

Comment by weez 09.15.06 @ 11:23 am

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