Thursday, December 04, 2008

Qld to reveal cabinet documents sooner

The Age
December 4 2008

Queensland has become the first state to break the age-old tradition of keeping cabinet documents secret for 30 years.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said a website, which went live on Thursday, would provide a range of cabinet documents a month after they were considered by her ministerial team.

The website, as well as online processing of freedom of information (FOI) requests, is the first step in a major overhaul of the way the public can access Queensland government information on themselves and other matters.

Under the Westminster tradition of government, cabinet documents are released 30 years after they are considered.

Draft Right to Information laws, tabled in the Queensland parliament on Thursday, overturn the 30-year rule, with all cabinet papers to be released after 10 years and some to be provided on the website within a month of them being considered.

The laws also take information from a model where it has to be "pulled" out of the government, to a "push" model where the government proactively releases information.

FOI will also apply to government-owned corporations for the first time.

"Today Queensland is one step closer to becoming the most transparent, open and accountable government in Australia," Ms Bligh told parliament.

The government is still considering the issue of the cost of FOI searches, which journalists and other users believe is a block to greater access to government information.

But Ms Bligh said under the new laws an agency or minister would be forced to minimise the cost of applications.

A draft Information Privacy Bill, aimed at improving access to personal information held by the government, was also released on Thursday.

Comment on the draft laws has been invited until March 31.

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