Page 3826 - Week 12 - Thursday, 23 November 2006

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That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Freedom of Information Act 1989 supports the government’s commitment to open government and transparency principles. The act creates a legal right for any member of the public to access documents held by government agencies, subject to a number of exemptions on grounds such as the protection of personal privacy, public safety and law enforcement activities.

The Freedom of Information Amendment Bill 2006 is another achievement by this government to improve laws for the advantage of Canberrans. The ACT community will benefit from amendments to the existing legislation introduced by this bill protecting the privacy of personal information.

The Freedom of Information Amendment Bill 2006 amends the act to provide for a consultation process with an affected person prior to the release of personal information. The consultation process takes into account the views of the person whose privacy is potentially affected by the disclosure of personal information. It will also assist in the making of an informed and objective decision.

The bill also amends the legislation to provide for an exemption where the disclosure of information could prejudice the security of the Australian Capital Territory. The bill protects important security-related information from release, particularly where it relates to material that may, if released, encourage people engaged in terrorist activities. Provision has been made in the bill for exempting documents that may affect the national security or defence of the commonwealth, the territory or any state, and the international relations of the commonwealth from release to an applicant.

The bill makes a number of straightforward and sensible changes to the current legislation. Consistent with public expectations of accessibility and for clarity of law, the bill also includes an amendment that outlines the information to be considered by an agency in assessing the amount of work required in processing a freedom of information request.

A recent ACT case has highlighted the need to clarify these provisions. This amendment will assist an agency in determining whether the processing of the freedom of information request would involve the unreasonable diversion of that agency’s resources. I am confident that this bill will strengthen the operation of the ACT’s freedom of information legislation. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

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

Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Amendment Bill 2006 (No 2)

Mr Hargreaves, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

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