Freedom of Information

November 19, 2007

Interesting story in the Age, outlining a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to release correspondence between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Exclusive Brethren.

JOHN Howard has exchanged letters five times with the Exclusive Brethren since 2003, but after 14 months of stalling on a simple freedom-of-information request, his office will not release the correspondence until well after election day.

The utility of FOI legislation has long been point of contention between the Australian government and the press. The main issue appears to be that while certain information may theoretically be available, the press has found the actual acquisition of the information to be such a laborious and expensive process as to make a mockery of the alleged transparency the legislation was supposed to provide. And to add some frosty chocolate icing to this already opaque cake, Ministers have the authority to arbitrarily issue conclusive certificates labeling a FOI request is “not in the public interest”, thereby exempting it from disclosure.

So essentially, the FOI Act gives citizens the right to request public release of information from the government. Except when they don’t happen to feel like it.



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