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Thursday, 9 December 1976
Page: 3577

Mr ELLICOTT (Wentworth) (AttorneyGeneral) by leave- The interdepartmental committee on policy proposals for freedom of information legislation was convened earlier this year at the request of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to study and report to me on policy proposals for freedom of information legislation, taking into account the report of the interdepartmental committee on proposed freedom of information legislation that was tabled in Parliament in 1974, the implication of amendments to the United States Freedom of Information Act that were made in 1974 and not dealt with in the earlier report and any other matters that might be relevant. The Government decided that this further report should be tabled before the Parliament rises to enable the widest possible public discussion of the proposals made by the committee. The Government authorised me to prepare legislation for a freedom of information Bill. It is intended that that Bill will be introduced in the Autumn sittings next year. Representations that are made upon the interdepartmental committee report will be taken into account in drafting the Bill.

I should say that, in authorising the preparation of a Bill, the Government does not commit itself to accepting the proposals put forward by the committee. I will be examining these proposals very carefully, with particular regard to public comments that are made on them. The final shape of the Bill will be decided by the Government. It is also proposed that the Bill, when introduced, will be left to lie for a reasonable period for public comment on the Bill. The Government is anxious to have the fullest possible public input in determining the final shape of the legislation. The Government regards freedom of information legislation, giving the citizens a right of access to all government records that can properly be made available consistent with the protection of necessary confidentiality, as an important element in making government accountable to the electorate.

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