Freedom of information: a new era with old tensions

Judith Bannister

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Access to information is fundamental to all areas of administrative law. Indeed, the very early origins of prerogative writs have been characterised in terms of information access: ‘certiorari was essentially a royal demand for information’. The relationship between the citizen and the state is one of unequal power that modern administrative law helps to redress. Access to information is crucial to that process. The duty to disclose adverse information is central to the procedural fairness that government decision-makers must accord to persons whose interests are directly affected by their actions. Once a decision has been made, providing reasons is essential if affected people are to properly understand whether the decision may be susceptible to administrative or judicial review.

Public access to information is also central to the administrative law goals of executive accountability and improving the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of government decision-making. In modern democracies, governments are obliged to disclose information in a wide range of circumstances, including: answering parliamentary questions; disclosing evidence to independent inquiries and to courts; and many official reporting obligations. This chapter will focus upon one particular system of information disclosure: the rights of citizens to access government documents granted by Commonwealth and State freedom of information statutes. It will provide an overview of those statutes and their recent reforms, and identify some key areas of ongoing concern.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationModern administrative law in Australia
Subtitle of host publicationconcepts and context
EditorsMatthew Groves
Place of PublicationAustralia
PublisherCambridge University Press
Chapter16
Pages348-369
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781107445734
ISBN (Print)9781107692190
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • freedom of information
  • administrative law
  • Information provision

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