4 June 2012

The reaction of the Australian Government to the decision by the Information Commissioner that the Senate,  the House of Representatives and Parliamentary Services are subject to the Freedom of information Act is gaining momentum – and mobilising public opposition despite apparent support from many politicians – with a few notable exceptions in the Senate.

As a consequence of the Information Commissioner’s view that parliamentary departments were not excluded from disclosure obligations, the Sydney Morning Herald has obtained – and published – the costs to the Government of the now “stood down” speaker during his short term. In what is reported to be the first ever successful request for parliamentary information under the FOIA, the Speaker’s costs over six months include more than $18,000 for travel and $8,500 for catering.

This has the media keen for more, sensing – as in the UK when MPs’ expenses were revealed – that often the public projection of probity is not the reality. In anticipation that the Attorney General will follow through with her intention to legislate to exclude parliamentary agencies from information disclosure obligations, the SMH reports having made a request for the expenses details of every MP and Senator.