The Right to Information Act 2009 and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (“the legislation”) commenced on 1 July 2009. Now that two years have passed, people are asking, “Are we there yet?”
Guided by the legislation the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) fulfills its role by publishing guidelines, providing awareness, education and training activities, undertaking research, commenting on legislation, resolving privacy complaints and external reviews, and monitoring and reporting on agency compliance with the legislation.
Two years post-implementation the reorganised and expanded OIC is functioning efficiently and effectively. Successful performance is reflected in the OIC’s Annual Reports and the office presents itself for accountability to the Legal Affairs, Police, Corrective Services and Emergency Services
These factors, coupled with record breaking performance in managing higher-than-ever numbers of external reviews and privacy complaints, indicate that the OIC itself is largely “there”.
In terms of RTI reforms as a whole it is important to identify its two key objectives: (i) increasing the flow of information to the community; and (ii) changing the presumption from all documents being closed to all documents are open.
Some key findings identified in the Information Commissioner’s analysis of the past two years include:
In 2009-10 the OIC received more external review applications than ever before. The number of applications would have likely increased again in 2010/11 were it not for the effect of the natural disasters during the first quarter of 2011.
In 2009-10 the OIC resolved a record 91% of external review applications and in 2010-11 the Office closed a record 394 external review applications.
In 2010-11 the OIC also closed the last matter relating to the Freedom of Information Act 1992 (Qld).
The OIC’s report “Agency Progress on the Right to Information Reforms” shows 72 per cent full or partial implementation of the reform’s 185 obligations across all agencies and 94 percent full or partial implementation by Queensland government departments.
The overall assessment is that agencies, and departments in particular, have done more than at any previous time to open up the Queensland government. Whilst positive progress has been identified it must not be forgotten that significant steps must still be taken.
Thus, we are not quite “there” yet, but we can certainly see it from here.
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