CABINET SECRETARY Senator John Faulkner has set out the Federal Government’s plans for reforming the Freedom Of Information (FOI) regime.
According to Faulkner, the government has now committed to abolishing conclusive certificates, with legislation to this effect due to be introduced into Parliament later this year. Ministers can currently use conclusive certificates to refuse access to documents, even if the Administrative Appeal Tribunal has declared that they should be released.
In terms of broader FOI reform, Faulkner said that the government plans to release an exposure draft of the reform legislation for public consultation later this year. The proposed reforms are designed to streamline and improve the FOI regime and will include the establishment of an FOI Commissioner. Following consultation, the final legislation will be introduced in 2009. Faulkner described these reforms as “the most significant overhaul of the FOI Act since its inception in 1982.”
In September last year the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) began an inquiry into the FOI laws and was due to report to the Government in December this year. However Faulkner said that the ALCR will now be asked not to proceed with the inquiry, and will instead be asked to review the FOI regime after the reforms have come into effect.