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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 September 2011) . . Page.. 4033 ..


A dedicated open government website is on schedule to be launched next month. The site will be a gateway for access to government information, including access to government material released under FOI applications. Until now, one of the perverse and unintended consequences of freedom of information has been that the information released to an applicant has frequently then been selectively culled by that applicant, with only the bits that suit their argument ever being made public. Freedom of information ought to mean just what it says. If the information is fit for dissemination, let us make it available to everyone—the applicant, the reporter writing the story and the ordinary Canberran who decides that he or she wants to see the whole context of an issue.

Of course this new website will be much more than just a repository of FOI documents. It will be a place where Canberrans will be able to read for themselves the background reports that help guide government decisions, and even internal government reviews of issues.

As members would be aware, I have also established and funded a dedicated Government Information Office, in part to coordinate the progress being made on open government initiatives right across the spectrum. The creation of this office is part of the comprehensive structural reforms arising from the Hawke review. Together, these reforms constitute a new way of governing as we head into our second century as a city; a way of governing that is tailor made for the mature city and mature community that we have become. No longer are we hostage to our history.

One of the tools that help free us from that history is technology. Our capacity to share information has been transformed by modern technology. But the pace of progress is swift and its direction can be difficult to anticipate. Most of us have at some stage bought a flash new home computer only to see it quickly superseded by a machine that can do more things and do them better.

The same reality confronts governments and other big institutions such as universities, which invest very significant proportions of their budgets on ICT. That is why I recently announced a new ACT public service ICT strategic plan which not only creates a stronger strategic frame for the ICT investments the government makes but also supports and enables the work we are doing in the area of open government.

One area in which I expect to see some significant progress is in the provision of government data to third parties, whether they be scholars seeking to make a contribution to social policy development or individuals developing new ICT applications for mobile phones and other devices to enhance our daily lives.

As with other sorts of government information, unless there is a good reason why this data should not be made available, there should be a presumption in favour of release. In fact, for some time now the government has been contributing a number of datasets to a national dataset repository called data.gov.au.

The government is happy to go further than that, but all of us need to understand that it is not always just a matter of saying yes every time someone asks for the keys to the filing cabinet. Data need to be set in a form that is accessible and useable. Sometimes,


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