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3.2 - Understand the use of freedom of information


3.2 - Understand the use of freedom of information

This commitment aims to better measure and improve our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws.  We will do this by working with states and territories to develop uniform metrics on public use of freedom of information access rights, and by collecting and publishing this data.

There is currently a lack of a baseline, coherent national perspective that incorporates all jurisdictions.

The outcome will be a national view of the use of FOI laws which will help build a more complete picture of freedom of information rights in Australia and could help governments improve processing of information access requests. Importantly, international measurements have been developed by the World Justice Project and published as the Open Government Index 2015. That index considers four quadrants to measure open government, and ranks countries around the world. The quadrants are:

  1. publicised laws and government data
  2. the legislated right to information
  3. opportunities for civic participation, and
  4. complaint mechanisms.

The 2015 Open Government Index found that there was no relationship between the presence of right to information laws and how successfully those laws work in practice. Measuring the effectiveness of right to information laws is essential to ascertaining how they are being accessed by citizens and the operation of these laws in practice. As a democratic society it is important that we have systems in place to measure the how citizens are using the legislated right to information and the provision of information in a timely, effective manner by governments in response to citizen requests. The proposed metrics will align with World Justice Project Open Government Index measures and facilitate an assessment of the right to information, the exercise of that right and the effectiveness of that right in providing information to citizens.

The commitment directly addresses the OGP access to information and public accountability values by providing a national perspective on the operation of laws, for example identifying the extent to which decisions are made on time.

The value of the metrics is that they will:

  • enable the community to compare the performance of their local FOI laws with those in other states/territories/Commonwealth and advocate accordingly
  • improve community understanding of how FOI laws work
  • stimulate discussion on what makes for ‘good’ FOI laws and performance
  • support related commitments under the National Action Plan, such as commitment 3.1 – Information management and access laws for the 21st century; and
  • provide a baseline for measuring changes in FOI laws and the impact of Australia’s National Action Plan.

Steps to implementation

Implementation Step Period Status

Information Commissioners and Ombudsman to agree and publish metrics on information access rights, aligned with the Open Government Index.

Dec 2016 Completed but delayed

Undertake pilot for data collection and validation for the 2014/15 financial year.

May 2017 Completed

Data collection and validation for the 2015/16 financial year.

Jul-Nov 2017 Completed

Publicly release dataset on 2015/16 metrics.

Dec 2017 Completed

Status updates for commitments are provided approximately every two months. With each update, agencies are encouraged to provide further and better particulars of the commitment and its steps to implementation, which may result in changes to timelines outlined in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18.

Updated date: 10 July 2020