Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 31 October 2017) . . Page.. 4741 ..
The previous FOI laws left the government in control of the release of the most significant government information, and ignored the obvious conflict of interest that exists in having government decide what is made available to the community. Of course, no government is ever shy about releasing information that presents it in a positive light, but access to government information should be based on the best interests of the community and not simply on whether it is good news for the government of the day. This new FOI framework recognises that government information is a public resource and will help to promote a culture of openness and transparency in government. Both agencies and ministers will be required to proactively publish a range of documents unless it is contrary to the public interest to do so.
The types of documents include policy documents, details about agency activities and budgeting, certain expert reports and, from three years after they are written, incoming minister briefs, question time briefs and estimates and annual reports briefs. This approach will greatly reduce the need for sometimes unnecessary FOI requests that are time consuming for directorates and applicants alike. The new public interest test will increase the availability of government information, improve public understanding of government decisions and increase public confidence in government processes.
The proposed amendments in this bill are based on advice received during the implementation of the new open access scheme. These do not undermine the intent of the FOI legislation, in our view, and will ensure the practical operation of the new scheme and avoid what I think might be described as some unintended consequences. I certainly look forward to ushering in the new system of FOI for the ACT, shifting the culture of government transparency in the territory and allowing our citizens more opportunity to participate in government by opening up our information flows.
In conclusion, the Greens are happy to support this bill today. We believe the amendments promote a series of improvements across a range of government legislation.
MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for Regulatory Services, Minister for the Arts and Community Events and Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (6.06), in reply: I am pleased to speak in support of the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (No 2)—the JACS bill. I thank Mr Hanson and Mr Rattenbury for their contributions and their support of this bill. I also thank the scrutiny committee for its comments. In response to that, I table a revised explanatory statement.
The JACS bill makes amendments to justice and community safety legislation to help put in place better support and better services for our community. This bill is the result of ideas from legal professionals, government agencies and our commonwealth colleagues about how to make our legislation more efficient, effective and fair. Several of these ideas were about how we can reduce unnecessary interaction between members of the community and the courts. The amendments to the Legal Profession Act 2006 will allow the Law Society and the Bar Association to, where appropriate,