The operation of Commonwealth FOI laws submission
20 June 2023
The Law Council recently made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee in relation to its Inquiry into the operation of Commonwealth Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.
This submission was informed by input from several Constituent Bodies, in addition to the Federal Dispute Resolution Section’s Administrative Law Committee. It emphasises that the transparency afforded to the FOI scheme, through the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act), is critical to the effective operation of the administrative law system and, more broadly, to the integrity of Australia’s democratic institutions.
In its submission, the Law Council addresses each term of reference and makes the following recommendations:
- The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner must be properly resourced to finalise Information Commissioner reviews in a timely way, and to assist agencies to build a culture of disclosure.
- The Government and its agencies must be properly supported to carry out their obligations lawfully under the FOI Act, and to implement the administrative access scheme more extensively.
- Consideration should be given to removing, or otherwise amending, paragraph 11C(3)(c) of the FOI Act in relation to publication of released information.
- Consideration should be given to relocating the Information Commissioner’s review function, potentially to the new body replacing the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The Committee is due to report by 7 December 2023. The Law Council will continue to monitor the progress of this Inquiry and any subsequent consideration of reforms to Australia’s FOI laws to ensure their effectiveness in promoting open and accountable governance.