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Wednesday, 27 October 1993
Page: 2665

Senator MARGETTS (6.51 p.m.) —The amendments circulated in my name, as has been mentioned, relate to the Freedom of Information Act. I will be moving the amendments in the committee stage. They have been foreshadowed as a means of addressing the situation which has been around for a long time whereby it is very difficult for a number of people in the community to gain access to policy documents. We are aware that there are no fees or charges for documents relating to a person's personal affairs or income security payments for pensions but in terms of policy documents substantial charges can occur. Even a small request could result in a charge of $500-plus. The charges relate to a $30 application fee, which is fine, a $15 an hour search and retrieval fee—maybe, although it does not exactly streamline the process—and a $20 an hour decision making fee.

  We wonder whether this is an incentive for bureaucrats to spend many hours making decisions. Exactly who ends up making the major decisions—which relates to the first part of my amendments—regarding who gets the final say? I noted that Senator Vanstone's remarks were mainly related to the second part of my foreshadowed amendments. Perhaps the first part of my amendments also requires consideration, that is, who gets the final say. Should it be the government or should it be an independent body based on fair and understandable rules that everybody knows about? So in foreshadowing the amendments, I ask the opposition to also look at the first part of the amendments, which is separate in its application from the second part of the amendments.