Thursday, 21 January 2016 00:45

EFA lambasts A-G over ‘war of attrition’ with Information Commissioner

By
Attorney-General George Brandis Attorney-General George Brandis

Digital freedoms and rights group, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), has called on the Attorney-General – George Brandis - to cease what it says is his “absurd
war of attrition” with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

The not-for-profit group representing Internet users concerned with digital freedoms and rights, claims that since announcing in 2014 that it intended to abolish the
Office, the Federal Government has “starved the agency of funds” and has failed to reappoint two of the three statutory officer positions, “despite the reality that it
is unable to get its legislation to abolish the Office through the Senate”.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said on Tuesday that “the ongoing uncertainty that the government has created in the oversight of privacy and freedom of information must cease immediately”.

“If Prime Minister Turnbull is serious about his commitment to open government, then he must direct the Attorney-General to promptly make long-term appointments to the three statutory officer positions – Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner and Freedom of Information Commissioner – as well as to provide proper funding to support these critical roles. Without this, the Prime Minister’s commitment to open government must be seriously questioned.”

EFA’s criticisms came after the Attorney-General announced on Tuesday that Timothy Pilgrim would be given a third three month appointment as Information Commissioner, while also holding the other statutory offices of Privacy Commissioner and Freedom of Information Commissioner.

“Meanwhile, the Attorney-General is contesting Freedom of Information requests relating to his diary and to his own ‘metadata’, “ the EFA said, pointing out that, in
contrast, on 17th November 2015, the Prime Minister announced that Australia would be “re-committing to the Open Government Partnership”.

EFA is a founding member of the Australian Open Government Partnership Network, an independent coalition of individuals and organisations formed for the purpose of engaging with government.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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