Conclusive certificates will be abolished as a first step
in 2008, and further reforms will be enacted in 2009.
The next year will be an eventful one in FOI reform. As
promised in its Information Policy last year, in its move to
encourage a pro-disclosure environment within Government, the
Rudd Government will abolish conclusive certificates as the
first step in a process of reforming the Commonwealth Freedom
of Information Act (we looked at the Policy
Making the announcement on Tuesday, the Special Minister of
State Senator John Faulkner
said that "abolishing conclusive certificates is a
major step towards restoring trust and integrity in the
handling of government information as all decisions refusing
access to documents by FOI decision-makers will now be subject
to full independent merits review by the Administrative Appeals
The Government plans to introduce legislation abolishing
conclusive certificates in the next parliamentary session which
begins 26 August. Existing certificates will be revoked if and
when new applications are made for those documents which have
been the subject of those certificates. The reform will not
affect the ability to claim exemptions under the FOI Act where
it is legitimate to do so and full merits review of claimed
exemptions will be available.
The second stage of FOI reforms will also begin this year
with the release of an exposure draft bill for public comment.
Senator Faulkner declined to speculate on what matters the
Government might or might not pick up in the second stage, but
noted that it would address fees for access, and create a new
FOI Commissioner, who will be responsible for oversight of FOI
across the Commonwealth. That role will also drive the creation
of a culture of greater transparency and openness.
It is reasonable to assume that the exposure draft bill will
also embody other commitments included in last year's
Information Policy revealed ahead of the 2007 Federal election.
Senator Faulkner has also indicated that the recommendations of
Queensland's Solomon Report will also be looked at
closely in the development of the exposure draft bill.
As a result of the reform process, the Attorney-General will
ask the ALRC not to proceed with its planned review of the FOI
Act, in relation to which it was due to report in December
2008. Once the Government has enacted both stages of its FOI
reforms, the ALRC will then review the amended Act.
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