Thursday, December 11, 2008

Australian Law Reform Commission Review of Secrecy Laws

The Australian Law Reform Commission has released a consultation paper on Secrecy Laws.

In the accompanying press release, the Commission President David Weisbrot is quoted as saying:

"The federal statute book has become riddled with secrecy provisions, which make unauthorised disclosure of government information a criminal offence. So far the ALRC has identified over 370 distinct secrecy provisions scattered across 166 pieces of legislation—many more than we expected to find. "

"Some of these laws relate to matters of national security or other classified or sensitive information, and seem appropriate. However, we're less sure about the need for secrecy provisions in such laws as the Dental Benefits Act, the Dairy Produce Act or the Port Statistics Act. "

"A threshold question is whether we should ever charge someone with a crime for disclosing information that a citizen has the right to obtain under Freedom of Information laws? And how do we reconcile the increasing need of public officials to share information with each other and with the private sector to tackle the big issues facing us, such as terrorism, climate change and dealing with the global financial crisis?"

"We seem to be caught in a time warp, between an old culture of secrecy in government and more modern ideas about the fundamental importance to democracy of ensuring openness and accountability."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:14 pm


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