To ensure Australia maintains important reforms aimed at ensuring effective citizen access to official information, including:
- fully embracing the international Open Government Partnership (OGP), and
- recommitting to an effective federal right to information (RTI) regime including supporting the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
Public access to official information, and open and transparent government more generally, are vital for preventing corruption from taking hold – and for uncovering it when it does. Corruption thrives where the community and the media do not have access to official information about how government is functioning. For example, corruption is made difficult, if not impossible, when:
- Citizens can gain access to official records of meetings between public decision-makers and those who stand to benefit from their decisions;
- Persons engaged benefiting from corruption cannot use secret or ‘shell’ companies to hide or transfer their gains, because beneficial ownership information is collected and accessible;
- Business and the public have rights to reasons and information regarding government procurement decisions and other high risk areas for corruption.
Australian governments have been progressive in adopting freedom of information (FOI) and rights to information (RTI) regimes since the 1980s, as well as embracing new information technology as a tool of government engagement and openness. Australia has also committed to open data and information policies through the G20.
However, much needs to be done to maintain this commitment. In 2014, the Australian Government moved to de-fund and abolish the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the cornerstone of an effective FOI regime at federal level. In 2013, the Australian Government committed to join the international Open Government Partnership, but it took until November 2015 for it to commence the development of its national action plan. Action on key issues is vital for ensuring that access to information plays its role in Australian anti-corruption…
Position Paper 5 – January 2016