Exemptions under the Victorian Freedom of Information act 1982

AuthorElizabeth Proust
DOI10.1177/0067205X8301400202
Published date01 June 1983
Date01 June 1983
Subject MatterArticle
EXEMPTIONS
UNDER
THE
VICfORIAN
FREEDOM
OF
INFORMATION
ACf 1982
ELIZABETH PROUST*
Victoria was the first and, to date, the only Australian State to enact
freedom of information legislation. The Freedom
of
Information Act (
"FOI
Act") was passed
by
the Victorian Parliament in late 1982 and came into
operation on 5 July 1983. The legislation was a major part of the Australian
Labor Party's 1982 Victorian election platform and an early law reform
initiative
of
the new Government.
Before examining the exemptions in the Act, I will outline the background
of the Victorian legislation. This will indicate the various influences on the
final form
of
the legislation and explain both the similarities and divergences
between the Commonwealth and Victorian Acts.
BACKGROUND
TO
THE
VICTORIAN ACT
In mid-1979 the then Shadow Attorney-General (now Victorian Premier
and at time
of
writing Attorney-General) Mr John Cain, formed a small com-
mittee' to undertake the task
of
producing an FOI Bill. The Bill was intended
to be ready for the State elections due in 1982. It was hoped to use the Bill to
engage in public debate on the need for open government in Victoria. The
issue
of
open government became a major one for the Australian Labor Party,
especially in relation to lands deals allegations in the late 1970's.
The attitude
of
the then Victorian Government towards the right to in-
formation
is
typified
by
the following answer to a Question on Notice:
It
is
not the practice to answer vexatious questions
of
this nature which simply
engage upon a fishing expedition.
To
endeavour to do so would involve enor-
mous cost to no apparent benefit or purpose. Furthermore, it
is
contrary to
established policy to publicly divulge details
of
leases
or
tenancies granted
or
ac-
cepted by departments
or
instrumentalities
as
this involves disclosures
of
the
private business afl'airs
of
third parties. If the Honourable Member, for good and
stated reasons desires information on any specific lease
or
tenancy, consideration
will
be given to the supply
of
that information on a confidential basis. 2
Information was only available to those who had "good and stated reasons" for
desiring it, and then only on a confidential basis.
At the time the committee commenced its work, there had been a number of
draft Bills produced and a considerable degree of public debate on the issue.
The draft Bills included the 1978 Commonwealth Bill, the 1978 New South
Wales draft Bill and the draft Bill published
as
a Minority Report in the
Coombs Royal Commission on Government Administration. 3 In addition the
Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs produced its
BA(Hons) (La Trobe); Adviser to the Victorian Premier.
1 Membership
of
the Committee included Mr John Cain MP, Mr Robert Miller MP, Ms Jackie
Fristachy,
Mr
Colin Hay,
Mr
Kevin
O'Connor
and
Ms Elizabeth Proust (the author).
'Vic
Pari Deb, Vol 347, 4721
(20
November 1979).
3 Report
of
Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration (Chairman: Dr
HC
Coombs),
Appendix Vol
2,
23-56, Pari Paper 187/1976.

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