Question: ENVIRONMENT AND WATER DEPARTMENT
The Hon. J.S. LEE (14:45):
I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking questions of the Attorney-General regarding the operation of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Hon. J.S. LEE:
During the course of an external review of a freedom of information determination, the Ombudsman found that the Department for Environment and Water had refused the release of relevant documents that had been, wittingly or unwittingly, written in a manner that would exempt them from release. Although the Ombudsman agreed the documents should not be made public, he stated:
I consider that the breadth of the exemption contained in clause 1(1)(e) and the success at which the agency has woven a tenuous thread of a cabinet deliberation and decision through its internal discussions in order to attract the confidentiality of cabinet to sit at odds with the underlying principles of the FOI Act.
My questions to the Attorney-General are:
1. What action is the Attorney-General taking to ensure there is adequate compliance with the FOI Act that is congruent with the legislation's original intent to provide legitimate transparency?
2. Has the Attorney-General made efforts to review the current provisions of the FOI Act to decipher whether any amendments are necessary to avoid the potential evasion of public scrutiny?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:47):
I thank the honourable member for her questions. I will need to check, but if my memory serves me correctly the particular determination that the honourable member was referring to—I think it was something to do with the History Trust or Ayers House that was being criticised. So I take the honourable member's points into consideration and, if she wishes us to, we can have a good review of all the decisions by the now Leader of the Opposition, David Speirs, to see what sort of compliance the environment department (that he led) had with determinations and if, in fact, there were misuses of exemptions.
I thank the honourable member for drawing the house's attention to that. I think that is very useful. In terms of reviews of any particular act, we are always keen to see if there can be improvements on the way legislation works for South Australians.