Skip to content
Media, Political

New report exposes critical issues and highlights reforms needed in Freedom of Information culture and practices

Monash University 2 mins read

A robust Freedom of Information (FOI) process ensures independent access to government-held information, empowering the public, political opposition and journalists to hold governments and other institutions accountable. A new report from Monash University addressing the culture and attitudes towards FOI will be launched today. 

The report, The culture of implementing Freedom of Information in Australia, examines key aspects of FOI culture and practices, proposing significant reforms to the FOI system.

Associate Professor of Journalism at Monash University, Johan Lidberg, a lead researcher of the report, emphasised the importance of accountability in liberal democracies.

“A well-functioning and comprehensive FOI system acts as a deterrent against corruption within political systems, as those involved are aware of the high likelihood of being exposed. It also empowers the public with independent access to information, enabling greater participation in the political process and fostering a healthier democratic environment,” he said. 

Researchers undertook 377 surveys as well as interviews with 257 individuals at 96 agencies from hospitals, government departments, statutory agencies, local government and universities across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. 

Key findings from the report highlighted issues such as informational bottlenecks, inadequate resources, and a lack of understanding or commitment to FOI principles beyond dedicated FOI teams in government agencies.. A culture of 'damage control' and reluctance to release sensitive information was found to create significant challenges for FOI coordinators, who struggle to comply with legislation while perpetually underfunded in terms of staffing. The report underscores the critical need for adequate funding to support FOI processes, promoting transparency and the effective operation of FOI Acts. 

"FOI practitioners across the board possess a deep knowledge and understanding of the purposes, functions and challenges facing the FOI processes in their respective states. It’s incumbent upon their agencies and state commissioners to listen to their insights. Practitioners want to make FOI work better," Associate Professor Lidberg said

Notably, the report also reveals a concerning lack of engagement from government ministers, despite their pivotal role in upholding FOI provisions. Associate Professor Lidberg said the lack of engagement from this group was both disappointing, but also an important finding in itself.  

“The one group with the most potential impact on FOI functionality did not judge access to information important enough to contribute their views to the study. Until government ministers prioritise FOI/access to information on their policy agenda, little is likely to change,” he said.

The report recommends several legislative and administrative changes to improve FOI culture and practices. These include modernising terminology and procedures to reflect digital environments, streamlining consultation requirements, ensuring realistic legislative timeframes, developing proactive release policies, and providing recurring, sector-specific FOI training.

The report will be officially launched via webinar on Tuesday 18 June 2024 from 1pm to 2pm where the findings will be summarised by the research team and the Information Commissioners and Ombudsman will respond to the findings and recommendations in the report in a panel discussion. Registration for the free event is available here.

 -    ENDS    - 

 

Media Enquiries:

Kim Loudon

Monash University Communications Manager

T: +61 458 281 704

E: kim.loudon@monash.edu

 

For more Monash media stories, visit our news and events site: https://www.monash.edu/news

For any other topics on which you may be seeking expert comment, please contact the Monash University Media Unit on +613 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu

More from this category

  • Energy, Political
  • 19/07/2024
  • 11:11
Climate Council & Smart Energy Council

*BRIEFING INVITE* Understanding Australia’s Energy System: A guide to the National Energy Market

Energy is shaping up to be a key election issue, and Australia’s energy system is complicated and changing. The Climate Council and the Smart Energy Council are hosting a background briefing for journalists on the essentials of the Australian energy system, particularly thinking of those of you who might be new to the energy beat, need a refresher on the system or have a burning question for an expert. Our independent experts will explain what the east coast grid and National Energy Market actually look like, and what we do and don’t need to ensure a reliable supply in the…

  • Political, Science
  • 18/07/2024
  • 08:01
Parliament of Australia

Treaties Committee to examine extension of Australia-US scientific balloon agreement

TheJoint Standing Committee on Treatieswill hold a public hearing today for its inquiry into theExchange of Notes to extend the Exchange of Notes constituting an Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America to Amend and Extend the Agreement concerning the Conduct of Scientific Balloon Flights for Civil Research Purposes of 16 February 2006. The treaty action concerns the extension of a 2002 agreement between the Australian and US Governments which would allow the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to continue conducting scientific balloon experiments in Alice Springs. Committee Chair,Mr Josh Wilson…

  • Community, Political
  • 17/07/2024
  • 22:21
Community Council for Australia

Indifference – a threat to community organisations!

Media Release Embargoed until 18/07/24 Indifference - a threat to community organisations! A new report has found strong support for Australian charities and community organisations, including the need for increased funding and support, but there is an emerging minority of Australians who are less engaged and less supportive of charities and not-for-profits. The Community Compass report ­– released today – is based on research from 89 Degrees East for Our Community and CCA. It involved over 3000 participants and segmented the Australian community into six categories based on attitudes to community organisations and the level of engagement in volunteering, giving…

  • Contains:

Media Outreach made fast, easy, simple.

Feature your press release on Medianet's News Hub every time you distribute with Medianet. Pay per release or save with a subscription.