Government information access an 'important right'

Tuesday, 01 October, 2019

Government information access an 'important right'

Australians consider the ability to access government information an important right, according to a new study.

The study, sponsored by Information Access Commissioners from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Commonwealth, as well as the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Ombudsman, comes as part of the country’s Open Government National Action Plan 2018–2020.

Along with community attitudes toward government information access, the study measured citizens’ awareness of their right to view the information and their experiences and outcomes in exercising that right.

According to the study, 77–85% of respondents were aware they had the right to access information from government departments and agencies and four in 10 said they’d tried to obtain government information through a government agency in the last three years. In general, citizens successfully acquired information, with Western Australian participants having the highest success rate (91%). Conversely, ACT respondents were least successful, with only 60% gaining access to requested information.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner said the results would help governments examine the performance of their respective information access laws from a citizen perspective.

“The right to access information is a fundamental tenet of an open and democratic government. The study reflects the importance the community uniformly places on their right to access information,” the participating Commissioners and Ombudsman said in a joint statement.

“These results will assist Information Access Commissioners and ACT Ombudsman to encourage governments to promote access to government-held information to build public trust and continue to advance an effective and contemporary model of open government that is participatory, fair, accountable and transparent.”

Participating Commissioners and Ombudsman included: NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd; Qld Information Commissioner Rachael Rangihaeata; Australian Information Commissioner Angelene Falk; Victoria Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel; Western Australia Information Commissioner Catherine Fletcher; and ACT Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe.

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