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3.1 - Information management and access laws for the 21st century

We will ensure our information access laws are modern and appropriate for the digital information age.

Objective
Australia will consider options for reforms to the framework for managing and accessing government information, including the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), the Archives Act 1983 (Archives Act) and, where relevant, the Privacy Act 1988 (with primary focus on the Archives Act and FOI Act), as well as policies and practices relating to information access and management.

Status Quo
In 2010, the Australian Government passed reforms to the FOI Act as part of a broader plan to improve transparency and to encourage public engagement in decision making. The 2010 reforms also included the introduction of the Information Publication Scheme, which requires agencies to provide a broad range of information on their websites, and amendments to the Archives Act to reduce the open access period for Commonwealth records from 30 to 20 years over a 10 year period.

There have since been a number of reviews recommending changes to the FOI Act, including Dr Allan Hawke’s Review of Freedom of Information Laws and the Belcher Red Tape Review. Among other things, the Belcher Red Tape Review recommended the Attorney-General’s Department “begin work with relevant entities to scope and develop a simpler and more coherent legislative framework for managing and accessing government information during its life-cycle in a digital environment through staged reforms, commencing with legislation regulating archives.”

The core frameworks of Australia’s information access laws (in particular the FOI Act and the Archives Act) have not been substantially altered since enacted in the early 1980s, when government operated in a paper-based environment. It is therefore appropriate to consider how access to government information is best managed into the future within the context of digital government.

Ambition
To develop a simpler and more coherent legislative framework for managing and accessing government information within the context of digital government, supported by efficient and effective policies and practices.

Relevance
This commitment will advance the OGP values of access to information and public accountability by:

  • ensuring government information access laws are modern and capable of meeting the demands of the digital age;
  • increasing awareness of public access rights to government information; and
  • improving efficiency of processing access to information requests.

OGP Grand Challenge

  • Increasing Public Integrity
  • Improving Public Services

Timeframes
Early 2017 – Mid 2019

Lead agency
Attorney-General’s Department

Other actors involved
Government: The National Archives of Australia, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Non-government: Non-government organisations, archivists, academics and researchers, journalists, Law Council of Australia and state/territory information commissioners

Milestones

  1. Develop options paper setting out alternative models for information access laws.
    • Early - Mid 2017
  2. Public consultation on options paper.
    • Mid 2017
  3. Propose preferred model for framework informed by consultation outcomes.
    • Late 2017
  4. Implementation of proposed model (if required).
    • Late 2017 - Mid 2019