Information Commissioner welcomes Parliamentary review of the FOI Act to modernise access to information
The Integrity and Oversight Committee of the Victorian Parliament will conduct an independent and comprehensive review of the Freedom of Information Act
The Information Commissioner welcomes the referral by the Legislative Assembly to the Integrity and Oversight Committee (IOC) to conduct an independent review of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).
“This comprehensive review is something for which my office has advocated for some time,” said Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel.
Victorian agencies and Ministers receive more FOI applications than those in any other Australian jurisdiction, including the Commonwealth. In 2021-22 alone, Victorians made 43,978 FOI requests to Victorian government agencies and Ministers, an all-time high.
This increase in FOI requests also coincides with an unfortunate reality for many applicants – that of longer delays, while agencies face increasing FOI complaints as they struggle to meet FOI statutory time frames.
“We are seeing a continuing trend of Victorians waiting longer to access information. This goes against the intent of the legislation” said Mr Bluemmel.
In September 2021, the Information Commissioner made a recommendation for the FOI Act to be the subject of an independent and comprehensive review to examine how FOI processes and access to government-held information can be modernised, including providing for greater proactive and informal disclosure of information.
“I warmly welcome this first step towards reform that has been taken by the Legislative Assembly and the Committee.”
“It is both an acknowledgement of the importance of the FOI Act to the public’s legal right to access government-held information, and a recognition that the current process is falling short of meeting this expectation in a timely way,” said Mr Bluemmel.
The review of the FOI Act will consider the effectiveness of the current Act, proposed legislative changes to improve how Victorians can access information, and how agencies release it. A copy of the Committee’s terms of reference is available here.
“The IOC review comes at an auspicious time as we celebrate 40 years since Victoria became the first Australian State to pass FOI legislation. The inquiry presents a significant opportunity to overhaul the Act to make it fit for purpose in the digital age, and to look closely at how access to government-held information can be made simpler, quicker and cheaper for all Victorians,” said Mr Bluemmel.
For media enquiries contact:
t: (03) 8684 7585
For enquiries about FOI in Victoria contact:
Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner
t: 1300 006 842
For further background, please refer to:
• Own Motion Investigation Report – Impediments to Timely FOI and Information Release
• Unacceptable levels of delay in FOI decisions in Victoria
• Information Commissioner calls for a wide-ranging review of Victoria’s FOI law