Critically assess whether the New Administrative Law package in Australia is suitable to deal with the relationship between the citizen and the state in 2017, considering the FOI. 

Write advantages and what critics say about FOI. 
Suggestions on how the FOI should be reformed because there is unnecessary information being requested. No need to explain the role of FOI. Get straight to the point. Cost factors, exemptions on documents should be supported by evidence (articles). Support the FOI in the answer and keep everything related to the question. Please make sure you answer the question. 

Introduction

Australia’s new administrative system, in many ways, is an example of the global best practice. On the contrary, there is no point in having a comprehensive system of administrative review when it is not truly independent. It is particularly at the start of the 21st century, when citizens need greater accountability from the government, especially when there is public awareness, mass communication, and less automatic respect for traditional institutions. The rationale for the existence of governmental review is undermined, unless the community is confident where the administrative decision-makers and organizations are seen to be fit, independent, and competent.

Reforms of FOI

Cost

            FOI needs to lower the prices since it is a very costly exercise. For example, the mean application for the non-personal affairs data is around $30, the mean internal review fee is $40-30, while the range of the fees for the external review varies from zero to $300 plus (common wealth).[1] Additionally, one can take more time to access the documents, which can be months or even years[2]. Even though the request may be granted, the costs that will be charged to process the documents may reach thousands.

Transparency

            The FOI process should be transparent since some of the government officials try and make it difficult to access useful information. Stiglitz tries to analyse the role of information symmetry in public and political policy. It offers a framework to further assess how the disparity in performance of FOI legislation has happened and its implications for policy reform and analysis. However, in Australia, FOI has made limited progress to public sector reforms.[3] Therefore, much should be done to ensure that FOI is effective for the public.

Bureaucratic Tendencies

            The process of requesting the FOI by the public should not have bureaucratic tendencies. It should be flexible so that people may have faith in the legislation of the state. During 2002 Michael McKinnon requested access to the Australian Commonwealth Treasury under Freedom of Information Act for policy documents associated to potential fraud of First Homeowners’ Scheme[4]. The individual was denied access to the documents including the briefing papers and emails. However, before the date of hearing in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the administration issued a series of certificates that rendered the allotting of the documents invalid.[5] The Secretary of the Treasury added that it would not be in public interest to release the data since it will review the capacity of public servants. Therefore, the government should not hinder the process since people will not get to understand what had happened.

Information Symmetry             FOI serves as both a mechanism to offset data asymmetry and performs the instrumental function to freedom of information legislation. Information asymmetry forms a myriad of information issues faced by firms and consumers in private sector and for governments and citizens in the public arena.[6] One should remember that the public marketplace for good ideas and policies becomes inefficient and distorted when there is greater the data asymmetries between citizens and governments…


[1] Rick Snell, ‘Freedom of Information Practices’ (2006) 13(4) Australian National University 291-307. p.293

[2] Ibid

[3] Colin Darch and Peter Underwood, Freedom of Information and the Developing World: The citizen, the state and models of openness (Chandos Publishing, 2010) p.115

[4] Freedom of Information Act

[5] Stephen Tanner, Journalism Investigation and Research, (Longman 1968) p. 152

[6] Hazell Robert and Worthy Ben, ‘Assessing the Performance of Freedom of Information’, (2010) 27 Government Information Quarterly 352–359. p. 353

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