Legislative Council

GREENS BILL: Freedom of Information Bill passes Upper House

November 2nd, 2016

On the 2nd of November 2016, Mark brough his Freedom of Information (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2016 to a vote in the Legislative Council. 

The Bill was passed with the support of the Liberals and Dignity for Disability.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I would sum up the second reading of this bill by thanking
the Hon. Gail Gago, the Hon. Andrew McLachlan and the Hon. Kelly Vincent. I particularly want to
thank the Liberal Party and Dignity for Disability for their support for this bill, which guarantees that it
will pass this chamber tonight. I think that is a good thing for our democracy.

I do need to make some comments in relation to the Hon. Gail Gago's contribution. She
pointed out all the adverse impacts that would flow for government agencies if this bill was to pass.
She talked about complex legal issues, and she said it was not clear what this bill would achieve.
Well, I can tell you, Mr President, exactly what it will achieve. It will achieve what the South Australian
Ombudsman said was required to reform the law of this state to bring some fairness and rigour and
democracy back into this state.

The process that I went through in drafting this bill was pretty simple. What I did was to get
the Ombudsman's report from May 2014, entitled An Audit of State Government Departments'
Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 1991, I gave a copy of the report to parliamentary
counsel, identified the bits that required legislative reform—because not every reform did, some of it
required cultural change, it required a change of attitude on the part of departments—but for the
things that required legislative reform I asked parliamentary counsel to draft the necessary
amendments, and that is what they have done. So, this bill is, effectively, the implementation of what
the Ombudsman said was needed.

Now, the government, in opposing every single clause in the bill, is effectively saying that the
Ombudsman had nothing worth saying—none of his recommendations were worth implementing. I
might just remind members that we are not talking about Mr Wayne Lines, the current Ombudsman,
we are talking about Mr Richard Bingham, the previous ombudsman. When he resigned, after
five years of service, back in June 1994, the Attorney-General, the Hon. John Rau, said:

Richard Bingham will leave early next month. After serving almost five years as Ombudsman for
South Australia, Mr Bingham has decided, for personal reasons, to return home to Tasmania. Mr Bingham has provided valuable service to our state.

And this is the kicker, when the Attorney-General goes on to say:

Over the last four years, 97 per cent of his recommendations relating to state and local government were
accepted and 80 per cent were fully implemented.

Ninety-seven per cent of his recommendations were accepted, and 80 per cent of them were
implemented. Well, those stats have just taken a dive, because here we have all of his legislative
recommendations in this report from two and half years ago rejected by the government.
What a remarkable thing for them to do. They could find nothing of any value in anything the
Ombudsman said in his review. I will tell you why they are thinking like that. It is because the
Ombudsman was scathing. He was scathing about the culture of secrecy that has permeated
government departments; he was scathing about the culture of political interference with the exercise
of statutory responsibilities by freedom of information officers; and he recommended changes to
reform that system.

So, I think this is quite disgraceful that the government finds nothing of any merit in anything
the Ombudsman had to say. I will not go on. I am pleased that the numbers are with us tonight and
that this bill will pass the upper house. I would urge the Attorney-General to reflect on the passage
of this bill through this place and to reflect on what he said on Mr Bingham's retirement about
97 per cent of his recommendations being accepted, and that he might review the government's
position to oppose every clause in this bill.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

Bill taken through committee without amendment.

Third Reading
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I move:

That this bill be now read a third time. 

Bill read a third time and passed.

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