New South Wales is moving ahead with reforming its freedom of
information laws with the release of consultation drafts of the
Open Government Information Bill 2009 and Information Commissioner
The NSW reforms have many similarities to the Commonwealth
reforms (which we looked at
here) in that they attempt to create a pro-disclosure regime,
and create an Information Commissioner to act as a champion for the
The main effect of the package is to put more responsibility on
departments and agencies to proactively review and release
information. For example, the fact that a document contains matter
protected by legal professional privilege can be a reason not to
disclose the document. Under the proposed reforms, the agency will
be required to consider whether it should assert the privilege or
Key features of the package are:
there will be a presumption in favour of disclosure unless
there is an overriding public interest against disclosure
if there is something in the document which leads to the
conclusion that there is an overriding public interest against
disclosure, and it is practicable to remove the matter, then it
should be removed to allow disclosure
departments and agencies will be required to proactively
release certain classes of information without waiting for a
details of contracts with a value of more than $150,000 will be
listed on a register, including details of the tendering process,
particulars of the contract and payments to the contractor. Extra
information will be required for certain types of contracts,
including privately financed projects
new rules on how applications must be made and determined
levels of review, including internal review, review by the
Information Commissioner and the Administrative Decisions Tribunal;
new offences for officers of agencies who improperly decline
access, influence others to decline access, or who conceal or
destroy government information to prevent its disclosure.
Comments on the bill must be made by 5 pm Wednesday 3 June
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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