Freedom of information – at a price

THE federal government has handed the Opposition a $24,000 bill to process a Freedom of Information request for documents relating to the original national broadband network tender.

From The Australia on Thursday.

6 thoughts on “Freedom of information – at a price

  1. In other news don’t say “double dissolution” around Malcolm Turnbull. He might wet himself. Perhaps there are good reasons for the Liberals to fear a “double dissolution” but can’t he find a better public excuse for policy flips. He is starting to look like a real coward.

  2. Holy s**t…. in a coupla days Terje and I seem to have similar positions! Yep. I’m still a socialist (says me humming “The Internationale” with gusto). Yep. I still want capitalism dismantled for all but luxury items. But on the topic of this post: “Hear hear!” if Terje thinks the $24K is unreasonably high.

    If documents had metadata describing subject and sensitivity (as required by various recordkeeping acts and advice) recorded (and it’s certainly known when the document is written), and a whole-of-government search engine (you can pay google or similar companies to install one), then the cost to discover and vet the appropriate documents should have simply been the cost of the search engine divided by the cost of the number of all documents within all government agencies – and 2 cents per document is a reasonable guess. Hell, for that capital investment, searches by the public could be no cost from internet cafes.

    It’s freedom FROM information we have. This must be fixed if we are to have government accountable to the citizenry.

    Mind you, Tanner and a couple of other enlightened ministers are improve things on the recordkeeping side, while AG McClelland has a current inquiry trying to rationalize all the various bits of “secrecy” offences (I think there are a few hundred bits of legislation involved nationwide) – and getting rid of the ones that do not serve the public interest.

  3. (To clarify, the cost of 2c per document is not per search, but an extra 2c per document on top of the cost of creating and storing each document in the first place. Trivial compared to the cost of writing it. Any further costs on top of that required to keep the article stored safely on disk with disaster recovery is simply the cost of moving the electrons between the inquirer and the data.)

  4. Given that the cost of making most documents accessible would be primarily a one off capital cost for installation of the relevant document management and search technology and given the politics of arbitrarily high quotes such as this one I think the simpilist solution would be to make all freedom of information requests free from charge (so long as the electronic form is acceptable) with any effort involved being used to ensure that the relevant documents are fully accessible to everybody across the web thereafter. The exception would be FOI requests for private personal information which should obviously not be published and may still entail some modest charge. Ultimately most documents should be public by default or else in a system that will automatically make them public after some proscribed date. ABS data should also be free to the public in my book.

    Dave – we can still disagree on health care and taxation I’m sure.

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