Five years of right to information and privacy legislation in Queensland

July 1, 2014 - 8:41am

1 July 2014 marks five years since the commencement of the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP Act), including new privacy, assistance and monitoring functions for the Office of the Information Commissioner. The RTI Act and IP Act framework promotes more open, transparent and accountable government, which in turn increases community participation for better informed decision-making.

Since 2009 the Office of the Information Commissioner has supported Queensland government agencies to improve practices to increase the flow of information to the community and to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place for personal information held by government. Through our performance monitoring activities in particular, we have observed and reported improvements across all sectors of Queensland government agencies:

  • all agencies reported improved performance in 2013 regarding full or partial implementation of RTI and IP obligations – an increase of 14 percentage points since 2010
  • strong reported performance by the Queensland Government department, Government Owned Corporation and university and TAFE sectors, with 94% full or partial implementation of obligations
  • desktop audits of online information show ongoing agency improvement in providing clear pathways to access information, publication schemes, disclosure logs, and privacy compliance
  • compliance reviews have identified good practices and demonstrated agencies commitment to achieving full compliance
  • strong engagement by agencies in training, seeking expert privacy advice about projects, policies and specific issues, and accessing authoritative online resources and Enquiry Service advice to improve quality of RTI and IP practices.
Policy and legislative changes have also contributed to greater transparency and accountability:
  • over 1000 reusable datasets have been published under the Queensland Government Open Data initiative since late 2012
  • crime statistics are available through an interactive crime map providing a significant resource for the community
  • Queensland Government Ministers’ diary extracts are published monthly
  • disclosure logs are now mandatory for departments and Ministers.
During the period since 1 July 2009, OIC has also received and finalised approximately 2200 external review applications, a significant increase in ongoing demand. OIC resolved over 90% of external review applications informally without a decision in 2013-14.

Looking forward, there are opportunities and challenges for government and the community in realising the objectives of right to information and information privacy legislation. In 2014-15 OIC is focusing on promoting and encouraging greater use of online access to information and administrative access schemes, improving regional awareness and compliance, and encouraging agency leaders to champion a strong culture of openness and respect for privacy. The current review of the RTI and IP Acts provides an opportunity to ensure the legislation is efficient and effective in providing a framework to support agencies to facilitate community access to information held by government, and ensure appropriate safeguards for personal information.

On Right to Information Day in September 2014 we will reflect on progress made in, and the future of, right to information and privacy in Queensland.