Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s freedom of information system hides climate documents

Australia’s government agencies increasingly refusing environment-related FOIs, audit finds .  Australian Conservation Foundation also finds growing delays in processing requests by departments and agencies. Guardian, Christopher Knaus, 9 Nov 20,Australia’s freedom of information system is increasingly hiding documents about climate and other environmental issues from the public, a trend driven by skyrocketing refusal rates, widespread delays and rising costs, an audit has found.

The audit, conducted by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), examined five years of FOI requests for environment-related documents across federal and state departments and agencies.

It found the number of outright refusals for environment-related documents has more than doubled, from 12% to 25%, while the number of requests granted in full has dropped from 26% to 16%.

Delays in processing environment-related FOI requests were widespread, the audit found, with 60% of requests late by more than a month and 39.5% by more than two months.

The cost of processing environment-related FOIs was double the average, and lengthy review processes, which often took more than a year to complete, were becoming “a key tool for denying access to information”.

“It appears from our audit that environmental information is even more odiously inaccessible than other information subject to the [Freedom of Information] Act,” the ACF’s audit said.

ACF’s democracy campaigner, Jolene Elberth, said the findings of the audit should be a “wake-up call” to anyone who cares about transparency.

“Serious systemic flaws in our system are frustrating efforts to protect our precious natural ecosystems and tackle the climate crisis,” Elberth told the Guardian………

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) latest annual report shows delays, complaints and refusals are all increasing over time.

Complaints about the FOI system increased by 79% in a single year, according to the OAIC’s annual report.

Practical refusals – used if a request is deemed to take too much time or effort to process or if documents cannot be found – went up by 71% in 12 months.

Delays are growing more protracted.

Last financial year, about 79% of all FOIs were processed in the time required by law. The year before it was 83% and in 2017-18 it was 85%.

In some government agencies, only 50% of FOI requests are being processed within the lawful timeframe, including the prime minister’s office, the office of the environment minister, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, Sports Australia, the Australian federal police, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the office of the infrastructure minister and Norfolk Island Regional Council.

Delays at the Department of Home Affairs, which receives by far the most FOI requests, have also increased……

November 10, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics, secrets and lies

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