Accountability or participation? Disentangling the rationales for FOI access to deliberative material

Judith Bannister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This conference described our age as “the open government era”. The optimism apparent in this title is in many ways entirely justifiable. While open government has evolved slowly, and faced many challenges, half a century of statutory rights to access government documents has converged with information technology revolution to produce some remarkable results. When the United States Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1966, the idea of free online datasets, open to anyone anywhere in the world with access to a hand-held device, would have been unimaginable. When the Australian Federal freedom of information legislation was passed in 1982, leaks of government information like those now being disclosed over the Internet through Wikileaks were being printed in newspapers and monographs. The Hon. Michael Kirby, former Justice of the Australian High Court, once described the introduction of freedom of information (FOI) as a radical reform, given the long history of official secrecy, and “the attitudinal shift that FOI legislation demanded of ministers, departments, agencies and the public service [as] nothing short of revolutionary”.led the Federal Government to obtain High Court injunctions on the grounds of Crown copyright.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-344
Number of pages18
JournalRevue Internationale des Gouvernements Ouverts (International Journal of Open Government)
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • FOI access
  • deliberative material
  • rationales
  • government information
  • open government era


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