The then Premier of New South Wales, Nathan Rees, introduced the Government Information (Public Access) Bill in 2009. According to Mr Rees, “these bills constituted a fundamental freedom of information revolution”2 and that “governments must forever relinquish their habitual instinct to control information.3

Ms Tydd notes four major trends:4

  1. a decline in information release rates;
  2. an increase in upholding an agency’s original decision;
  3. an increase in applications for external reviews; and
  4. the timeliness of agencies regarding requests has improved.

GIPA sets out a fundamental and explicit presumption in favour of public disclosure of information and sets out four pathways to achieve these objectives, being mandatory proactive release; authorised proactive release; informal release; and formal access applications.

As part of Ms Tydd’s review of GIPA, key strengths and weaknesses of the processes involved were identified, and are summarised below.

PRO

CON

91% of all applications are being considered on time

Partial and full release rates for formal access applications are declining from 80% in 2012/13 to 69% in 2014/15

Refusals because of delay are at an all-time low of 6%

Mandatory proactive disclosure of information is at a low of 85%

8% of applications are being declared invalid compared to 13% in 2010/11

Agencies performing annual mandatory reviews of proactive release programs is consistently declining

65% of original decisions have been overturned following agencies adopting the Information Commissioner’s recommendations

External reviews conducted by the Information Commissioner have doubled in 5 years5

Ms Tydd has outlined that there is clearly room for improvement from all of the five sectors regulated by the legislation. As a result of the report, Ms Tydd will now focus on maximising the effect of all of these pathways rather than just the formal pathway as has been the practice in the past.

Moving forward, the regulated sectors will be required to be involved in the formation of registers for local councils, universities, the NSW Government and other state owned corporations. In basic terms, all of these bodies will be required to be involved in reporting so as to ensure that they are being properly regulated and to ensure that they are equipped to deal with malfeasance and fraud.

The basic idea was taken from the successes that ICAC has had with respect to procurement mismanagement, malfeasance and fraud.6

The Government has a wealth of knowledge. The knowledge held is a strategic asset that must be able to be accessed by the general public. In the digital age, people want information instantaneously. People have now set their expectations of the GIPA process to be swift and seamless.

Only time will tell whether the government is able to keep up in this new age.