Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 1 August 2019) . . Page.. 2581 ..

The amendments include provisions to pause processing time frames where a respondent agency is not able to contact the applicant to clarify the scope of the application, and to allow the matter to be closed where an agency has made reasonable attempts to contact the applicant but has not been able to contact them for a period of over three months.

These provisions are intended to avoid wasted processing effort where the scope of the request is unclear, or contact details are no longer current, so there is no way to deliver the documents to the applicant. Closing an application in these circumstances will not disadvantage an applicant, as a new application can be lodged at any time.

The amendments will also allow more flexibility for the ACT Ombudsman to grant extensions of time to allow agencies to process applications where there are exceptional circumstances. This will allow agencies time to systematically process very large and complex applications which would otherwise require an unreasonable diversion of resources. The extension may be subject to conditions and ongoing oversight by the Ombudsman to ensure that agencies are processing applications efficiently.

The bill also provides that the Ombudsman may seek to resolve a review application informally for a period of up to 30 days before proceeding to formal review. This will allow the Ombudsman to focus on seeking a practical and timely outcome for the applicant through negotiation wherever possible. For example, it may be possible for the Ombudsman to work with the applicant and respondent agency to identify the key documents sought by an applicant and to reach agreement that these be provided immediately, rather than reviewing all documents within scope.

Other amendments provide that processing can be suspended if a fee is payable and has not yet been paid, and that an application may be closed if the information sought has already been provided to the applicant informally.

This bill serves an important function in ensuring that our freedom of information regime will be effective and sustainable into the future. It will reduce the increased administrative burden associated with the new FOI Act and avoid government agencies spending time and resources in ways which do not assist applicants or serve the public interest. It does this while carefully preserving the pro-disclosure approach of the Freedom of Information Act and the high level of accountability and transparency that the act provides.

I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Hanson) adjourned to the next sitting.

Administration and Procedure—Standing Committee

Report 12

Debate resumed from 6 June 2019, on motion by Mr Wall:

That the report be noted.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . . Video