Tasmania: Australia’s most secretive state
TASMANIA is Australia's most secretive state, with the nation's worst performance at releasing information to the public, the Ombudsman's says in his annual report.
Government agencies commonly disregard the intent of Right to Information laws, often release nothing at all in response to requests, miss deadlines and fail to provide adequate reasons for their decisions.
Ombudsman Richard Connock said agencies "don't seem to give sufficient weight to the fact that the Act creates a legally-enforceable right to obtain information".
He said the test of whether the release of information is in the public interest is also "frequently misapplied".
"Tasmania's public authorities refused access to any information in 30 per cent of their 2018/19 decisions," he noted.
"This rate of refusal was nearly twice that of the next-highest jurisdiction (Queensland at 16 per cent) and 750 per cent that of Australian's most open jurisdictions (Victoria and the NT both at four per cent).
Tasmanian authorities are up to 750 per cent (yes, seven hundred and fifty) more like to refuse to release ANY information under right to information laws than agencies in other jurisdictions, according to Ombudsman Tasmania #politas— Emily Baker (@emlybkr) November 17, 2020
"Tasmania's percentage of refusals in full has been increasing each year since 2016-17 when it was 15 per cent."
Mr Connock also noted that Tasmanian government authorities were also poor at determining RTI request within the legally required time frames.
He said 27 per cent of requests failed to meet deadlines, the second-worst in the nation.
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said the government should be ashamed of Tasmania being the secretive state.
"Under the Liberals, secrecy is rife - and encouraged in government agencies. It's the culture now," she said.
"We know Premier Gutwein hasn't been the biggest fan of transparency and scrutiny, but we urge him to rethink.
"Government is there to serve the public good, and should be accountable to them, always."
Mr Gutwein said it was nothing to do with him, but rather public servants in government departments.
"The decisions are made are arms length of government under the RTI Act," he said.
"We have designated RTI officers, who apply the law, that's what they do.
"In terms of how we compare with any other jurisdictions, I think that's a moot point - our RTI officers are applying the law."
Mr Gutwein would not reflect on the failure of 30 per cent of requests to receive any information in response.
"I'm not certain what they're asking for. RTI officers at arm's length from government apply the law."
Originally published as Tasmania: Australia's most secretive state