27 September 2023

Ombudsman backs virus transparency

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The ACT Ombudsman, Michael Manthorpe has joined Information Access Commissioners from all over Australia and internationally to sign a public statement on the importance of transparency during the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The formal statement signed by the Ombudsman is a clear call for transparency and the right to access information as Governments, businesses and citizens deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Commissioners, the Coronavirus pandemic brings unprecedented challenges for society, both nationally and globally.

“Public authorities must make significant decisions that affect public health, civil liberties and people’s prosperity,” the Commissioners say.

“The public’s right to access information about such decisions is vital.”

They say that as a global community, they recognise that resources may be diverted away from work usually directed at protecting information rights.

“Public organisations will rightly focus their resources on protecting public health, and we recognise our role in taking a pragmatic approach, for example around how quickly public bodies respond to requests,” they say.

“But the importance of the right to access information remains.”

They say that public bodies must also recognise the value of clear and transparent communication, and of good record-keeping, in what they believe will be a much analysed period of history.

“As an international network, the International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) supports a flexible approach that takes into account the compelling public interest in the current health emergency, while safeguarding the values of the right to access information,” the national and international Commissioners say.

“We ask Governments to support this vision.”

The statement was signed by the ACT Ombudsman, Michael Manthorpe (pictured); the Australian Information Commissioner, Angelene Falk; NSW’s Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd; Victorian Information Commissioner, Sven Bluemmel; Queensland’s Information Commissioner, Rachael Rangihaeata; Western Australian Information Commissioner, Catherine Fletcher; Tasmanian Ombudsman, Richard Connock; Northern Territory’s Deputy Information Commissioner, Brenda Monaghan; and South Australian Ombudsman, Wayne Lines.

The international statement can be accessed at this PS News link.

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