Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Australia has effectively abolished its FOI watchdog

Last year the Australian government tried to gut the Freedom of Information Act by abolishing its enforcer, the Australian Information Commissioner. The move failed in the Senate, but that hasn't stopped the policy: instead of legally abolishing the position, they've simply defunded it. And now, they're refusing to appoint a replacement:

Attorney-General George Brandis​ refuses to say whether he will appoint a new freedom-of-information commissioner eight months on, amid plans to abolish his office.

Previous FOI commissioner James Popple resigned in January. The Attorney-General's department told a senate estimates committee this week that it had not started to select a replacement or set up a process to do so.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner was set up under the Freedom of Information Act in 2010, as an independent body to manage the public's access to information and provide advice to government. Three commissioners responsible for freedom of information, privacy and information were appointed to oversee it.

The office would not be drawn on when a new commissioner would be appointed, referring the committee to the department's response to the question.

So effectively they've abolished it, despite there being no Parliamentary majority to do so. Its dubious legally, and even more so constitutionally - but its so very, very Abbott, isn't it?