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Open and Transparent Government - Ombudsman's Annual Report


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Tags: Right to Information, Transparency, Accountability

Ombudsman's Annual Report, Cassy O'Connor MP, 18 November 2020

 

Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr GUTWEIN

We have heard you clutching at straws and going to the back of the Ombudsman's report. However, the truth is the Government you have been part of for the past seven years - and led for less than one - has earned a well-deserved reputation for secrecy. The Ombudsman's Annual Report will only reinforce this public perception. You have the dubious honour of being Premier of Australia's most secretive state.

You try to mislead us with fanciful tales of RTI officers just applying the law and everything being done at arms' length, but that is exactly what the Ombudsman's report makes clear is not happening. The Ombudsman is damming. He says, 'Government agencies don't seem to give sufficient weight to the fact that the act creates a legally enforceable right to information'. He states, 'Tasmania's public authorities refused access to any information in 30 per cent of their 2018-19 decisions - nearly twice that of Queensland and 750 per cent that of the ACT and Northern Territory'.

Premier, you cannot deny these numbers. They are evidence of a culture of secrecy that is infecting every level of government, every agency. Apart from organising a last-minute meeting with the Ombudsman to provide political cover, what are you going to do about it?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the Ms O'Connor, the Leader of the Greens, for her question.

As I have said, I read the report last night. That was the first time I had seen it. I contacted the Ombudsman this morning and we will discuss his perspective on these matters. As I have said what is important, and there are two points that I make here -

Ms O'Connor - You need to direct agencies to apply the act.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Mr GUTWEIN - We need to interrogate the data and understand exactly what is occurring. As I said a couple of moments ago, my reading of the report indicates that in terms of state Government agencies there has been a 20 per cent reduction in people requesting review. Local government and other public authorities are up almost 100 per cent and we need to understand the reasons why. Other authorities are up around 40 per cent.

I spoke yesterday about the Government's involvement with this act. RTI officers are delegated to be responsible under the act to make those decisions. They the make those decision under the law - not Government ministers.

Ms O'Connor - They know what is expected.

Mr GUTWEIN - You have cast a slight on hardworking public servants. I consider you should be very careful there. I will have a conversation with the Ombudsman, to understand his perspective. We will interrogate the data and understand what is occurring in terms of our relative standing with other states, so we can provide clear and precise information about the matters reported here. Importantly, I will gain an understanding from Richard Connock about how he thinks matters might be improved.