The right to know
The right to know
by Clare Curran
July 25th, 2012
The Law Commission has just released an important and awaited report; The Public’s Right to Know: Review of the Official Information Legislation. I don’t think it’s online yet but keep trying.
I haven’t read it yet, but I see that a main recommendation is more proactive release of information so that people don’t have to ask. This is an important advance.
The Commission is recommending a new statutory duty on public agencies to take reasonably practicable steps to proactively make official information publicly available. Professor Burrows stresses that the objective has been to avoid placing an unrealistic burden on agencies to immediately release large amounts of information.
The Commission recommends the Acts could be improved in a number of targeted areas such as:
• revamping the Ombudsmen’s guidance about release
and withholding, using decided cases as examples to provide
• redrafting unclear and confusing withholding grounds – in particular the so-called “good government” grounds
• new withholding grounds to better protect commercially sensitive information, and information provided in the course of a statutory investigation or inquiry
• giving advance notice to people and organisations whose private, confidential or commercial information is liable to be released
• adjusting the grounds for refusing requests which impose too great a workload on agencies
• encouraging proactive release of public information
• new statutory oversight functions to support the legislative framework
• increasing the reach of the legislation by including additional bodies within its scope, either fully or partially, such as specified information about the courts and certain parliamentary bodies.