The Treasurer’s at it again! Dollar
Sweetie says Freedom
of Information legislation is preventing public servants from giving ministers
frank and fearless advice

In an
address to public servants yesterday – not on his website,
curiously – the Treasurer said the laws were conceived to let citizens know
what the government knew about them and to correct anything in their personal
files that was wrong.

But it
appeared they were now being used by the media to trace government policy

Treasurer said this could ultimately scare public servants out of making frank
and fearless advice known to their ministers. According to an AAP report: “I would not
want to see practices growing up over those laws which would inhibit policy
making or would lead to a disinclination in relation to working documents and
policy development, to document in writing the pros and cons of particular
proposals,” he said. “This will become an obstacle to giving candid and
fearless advice.

But don’t
we have a right to know the policy proposal put to governments – so we can have
some idea of why ministers and cabinets goes for the options they chose? Isn’t
that called transparency.

according to our Coz. His FOI fans at The Australian
had more to say:

When newspapers get hold of documents
related to policy development, they rarely report it in terms of ‘this was
considered and wisely rejected, and the pros and cons were carefully analysed’,”
he said. “Instead, it is generally reported under the
headline, ‘Secret government documents show the government rejected advice
after being warned of the consequences’.

“This will become an obstacle to giving
candid and fearless advice.”

Mr Costello said debate in cabinet would be
far less fearless and candid if cabinet knew that the minutes were going to be
released under FOI. He said the protection, which excludes cabinet documents
from FOI, was very important to government…

The editor of Freedom of Information Review,
Rick Snell, said it was incorrect to say access to personal records was the
main purpose of the legislation.

“The most important objective was to
avoid corrupt government, to avoid cover-ups, mismanagement and to allow
citizens to engage in a fully informed, or better informed, basis in critical
decisions that affect their own well-being and their voting intentions,” he

Mr Snell said these objectives were made
explicit by the attorney-general in the Fraser Liberal government, Peter Durack, who
introduced the Freedom of Information Act in 1982.

He said there was a requirement on government
that policy be developed on the basis of reliable and accurate information. “Freedom of information allows people to
determine that those policy processes have led to the correct or preferable
policy in the circumstances,” he said.

So there,
Mr Treasurer.