Information Champion: Major Reform of Freedom of Information Laws
Rockliffs Solicitors and IP Lawyers
Publish Date: September 7, 2010
An information commissioner with broad investigative - and some coercive - powers is just one element of major freedom of information law reform in NSW.
The reforms substantially alter the focus of freedom of information laws in the state. They introduce a presumption in favour of the release of government information. A range of other improvements significantly enhance public access.
Information from public authorities (including government departments, ministers and their staff, local councils and courts) must be made publicly available on their websites, unless it would impose unreasonable additional costs on the agency.
The laws make it mandatory to disclose 'open access information' - which includes a publication guide, a disclosure log and register of government contracts.
The publication guide describes an agency's structure and functions and the kind of information it makes available. Additionally, agencies must keep disclosure logs to record access applications that have been approved if these relate to information they consider may be of interest to other members of the public. Details must include the date of the application, a description of the relevant information, whether it is now publicly available and how it can be accessed.
Agencies must also keep and publish a register of all their private sector contracts with a value of $150,000 or more. Relevant information must be entered into the register within 60 days of the effective date of the contract. While the law previously required agencies to disclose information about certain government contracts, this obligation now extends to local councils and, subject to limited exceptions, state-owned corporations.
The role of the information commissioner is proactive, to promote public awareness of the new laws and give advice and training to agencies.
People can request access to government information by submitting a 'valid access application'. Fees and charges are the same as before, but agencies may waive, reduce or refund them.
Reproduced with the permission of the Law Society of New South Wales.
For further information or assistance please contact Rockliffs on 02 9299 4912 or email us at email@example.com