FoI in Australia: Delays to FoI reform

Media organisations have cautiously welcomed the introduction to the Australian parliament of new Freedom of Information laws that promise to make it simpler, cheaper and more rewarding for journalists to scrutinise commonwealth agencies.

But the Rudd government has been forced to push back the original January 1 start date for its new access regime, with Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig now saying only that it will be operational "as soon as practicable" after the new bills are passed.

The government, with an election expected next year, has moved to honour a commitment to be more transparent, showing significant goodwill towards media organisations by committing to reforms that will not only be more costly but potentially more politically troublesome.

Application fees will be removed, personal information will be free, the proactive release of information will be encouraged, and an Office of the Information Commissioner will be established at a cost of $19.5 million over four years.

FOI reform hit by delays (The Australian, 27 November 2009)