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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 26 September 2019) . . Page.. 3994 ..

In his presentation speech, Mr Ramsay said that the government had created a working group to monitor the rollout of the new act. He said:

The working group has identified areas where the Freedom of Information Act could be improved to increase the efficiency of processing and provide greater flexibility for agencies to manage increased workloads under the act. The Ombudsman has also requested amendments to the act to address administrative issues, particularly relating to the processing of review applications by his office.

We are told that the results from this group and feedback from the Ombudsman have driven these changes. In summary, they include amendments to clarify the process where agencies are not able to contact an applicant; clarify the process to confirm that an applicant wishes to proceed where an estimate of fees has been issued; allow the Ombudsman to grant longer extensions for processing where it is reasonable and necessary, subject to conditions where appropriate; allow deferral where the information was created with the intention that it be formally published within a stated time but publication has not yet occurred; clarify issues relating to budget papers where interpretations of terminology or issues of timing have been unclear; allow the Ombudsman to resolve applications informally between the parties or through mediation before proceeding to a formal review of a decision; and align grounds for refusal by agencies with grounds used by respondents, supervised by the Ombudsman.

No issues have been raised by the legal profession or stakeholder groups. These do appear to be genuine suggestions for improvements from those working with the act on a day by day basis.

Given the increase in awareness of and demand for these services; that these changes have arisen from feedback from the working group, which includes users, agencies, and the Ombudsman; and our ongoing commitment to transparent government, the Canberra Liberals support this bill.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (3.44): The ACT Greens will be supporting the amendments today to the Freedom of Information Act. The FOI Act has been something of a labour of love for the Greens over many years and its passage through this place in the last term of the Assembly as a key parliamentary agreement item is something that we are still really proud of and which has made an important difference.

It has set a new standard for FOI legislation here in the territory, providing both greater levels of access and also the “push” model. That was a particularly important reform and one that, as I said at the time, was very much about culture change as much as legislative change. That is something that we are still developing here in the territory.

The bill before us seeks to manage a range of practical changes that I am broadly supportive of, so I do not intend to speak to each of the individual items. Mrs Jones has touched on that to some extent, as has the Attorney in his remarks.

These amendments will support agencies to streamline requests, provide greater clarity to applicants and respondents alike regarding statutory timelines and schedules,

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