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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 355 ..

Freedom of Information Act

MS MacDONALD: My question to the Chief Minister concerns the recent Auditor-General's report in relation to the previous government's administration of the Freedom of Information Act. I ask this question because the FOI Act is a key part of open and accountable government, regardless of which party holds office. Chief Minister, does the Auditor-General's report raise any issues that are of concern to the government about the administration of this act?

MR STANHOPE: It certainly does-at least it does, I guess, in retrospect. The report, which was tabled just towards the end of last year, is very interesting. I am concerned, just as every member of the ACT community should be concerned, about that report and about the findings of the Auditor-General who conducted an exhaustive examination of FOI requests. Most of the requests examined were made in the period 1999-2000 and the report certainly does raise some very serious concerns.

On page 1 of the report the Auditor-General reports:

The Audit examined a number of instances where the administration of the FOI Act-

and we are talking here about 1999-2000 when the current Leader of the Opposition was the Attorney-General-

was satisfactory or even exemplary. The Audit's examination, however, also identified a significant number of instances where the administration of the Act was poorly handled. The extent of these instances has led the Audit to the opinion that:

  • there was widespread failure by departments to comply with significant provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, and

  • these failures were particularly noticeable in regard-

and this is the most damning finding that an Auditor-General could make in relation to the FOI Act-

Mr Humphries: Who is the friend of public servants now?

MR STANHOPE: You don't want to hear this, do you? I repeat:

  • these failures were particularly noticeable in regard to politically sensitive requests handled by Chief Minister's and Treasury in 1999-2000.

Of course, this is what is contained just on page 1. It is interesting to go on. On page 2 the Auditor-General had this to say:

... Reasons' statements were often poor. The decisions of authorised officials were not monitored. Responses ... were incomplete. Exemption provisions were sometimes misused. Some responses were unnecessarily slow. The internal review process failed conspicuously in regard to some requests. Politically sensitive requests were handled poorly.

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