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Community Services and Development - Right to Information

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: Right to Information, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. On 20 December 2020, on behalf of the Greens, I wrote to the secretaries of Communities Tasmania and Health about persistent breaches of the Right to Information Act, responses not being provided in a timely way and simply getting no answers or acknowledgement of our application. We received a very thoughtful response from both the secretaries who made it clear that it's a workload issue and that agencies take their responsibilities under the act very seriously.

At that time there was one Right to Information officer for Health who was shared across Communities Tasmania and that Right to Information officer also had responsibilities in the legal services unit. You've got one RTI officer who I won't name, but who works for two of the most impactful agencies in government and who, in the latest Right to Information annual report that has been handed down, is obviously overwhelmed in their job because these agencies have the worst record in responding to Right to Information requests. Do you take a personal interest in that in the interests of democracy and transparency? Can you tell us - or can Mr Pervan tell us - if anything has changed to Communities Tasmania in terms of your resourcing?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I take a personal interest wherever possible. I remember when I was shadow minister for health, what is now released including the out-patient waiting list, I had to access through RTI, for example. Now, it just happens. If my memory serves me correctly, that was nine years ago. Now, we release that monthly not quarterly. Yes, I have a personal interest in increasing transparency and releasing data so everyone is fully informed. Mr Pervan, to Ms O'Connor's question around improvements since December 2020 -

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Pervan looked quite keen to answer the question.

Mr PERVAN - I am very happy to advise that after some discussion with Health, we identified a vacant position and converted that into our own RTI officer, so now Communities has a full time person who just does our RTIs, is not shared with Health, and is working their way through a considerable backlog. We've also brought in some temporary resources to help with that backlog in our legal services area, which is also brand new, having previously shared one with the Department of Health.

So that is specifically trained RTI person working for us full time.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are we likely to see an improvement in that data in next year's Right to Information annual report?

Mr PERVAN - Yes. I am certainly hoping so.