21 July 2011

Open Government has a new meaning in Australia this week!

Highly sensitive New South Wales proposals to outlaw motor cycle gangs have been widely leaked. Information shared with officials in Victoria became public so quickly that the Victoria Police is regarded as a ”running joke”.  Shocked by the speed with which bikie gangs learned of the proposal, the former NSW Premier has demanded that NSW police stop sharing intelligence with its Victorian counterparts.

The NSW Police Commissioner has attributed the leak to a corrupt few among the 20,000 strong NSW force.  He said that although there was no longer systemic police corruption in NSW, he felt betrayed by the leak.

Separate investigations are now underway by Victoria’s Office of Police Integrity (OPI) and the Police Integrity Commission in NSW . None of the police officers under scrutiny  has been charged.

Ironically the NSW Information Commission this week,  on the first anniversary of its establishment to enforce the Government Information (Public Access) Act, has criticised NSW Police for failing to release information as required in response to public requests. An investigation showed clearly that NSW Police were not meeting obligations under the Act, and the Commission has recommended 17 improvements.

The New Zealand State Services code of conduct includes a standard that “we must treat information with care and use it only for proper  purposes”.   Understanding the code includes guidance that the “proper management of information is central to the integrity of the State Services.  It is a breach of trust for us to make use  of information that we have learned through our work, or to disclose it in any way, unless we have permission to do so.”