What is public access to government information?
The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW) on 1 July, 2010. It established a comprehensive system for public access to government information.
The objective of the Act is to make government information more accessible to the public by requiring government agencies to make certain sorts of information freely available; encouraging government agencies to release as much other information as possible; giving the public an enforceable right to make access applications for government information; and restricting access to information only when there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
The system for public access to government information is overseen by the Information Commissioner.
The Information Commissioner's roles include:
- promoting public awareness and understanding of the Act
- providing information, advice, assistance and training to agencies and the public
- dealing with complaints about government agencies
- investigating agencies' systems, policies and practices
- reporting on compliance with the Act to the Minister responsible.
You can get more detail about the Information and Privacy Commission on its website.
It should be noted that the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 complements other regimes by which the public can access information held by government. It does not detract from any other rights of access to information that exist under other legislation or policies. Other legislation that may be particularly relevant includes:
- The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998, which allows individuals to obtain access to, and to apply for amendment of, information held about them by NSW Government agencies (more details see the website of the NSW Privacy Commissioner).
- The Court Information Act 2010, which provides for public access to information held by Courts about judicial proceedings (for more details see the Lawlink website).