Information act to cover court aspects

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 06:39 05/02/2013

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The Official Information Act will be extended to cover some aspects of how the courts work, but the Government has ignored calls for it to also cover Parliament.

It is also set to bring in new grounds for blocking the release of commercial information in response to recommendations from the Law Commission.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said yesterday the Government planned to press ahead with some of its key recommendations. They included extending the freedom of information law to the administrative functions of the courts, including information about expenditure, resources and statistical information about cases. There would also be new protections for commercial information and moves to clarify how the legislation applied to commercially sensitive information.

The Law Commission recommended a new withholding ground to protect competitive positions and financial interests in addition to the existing commercial withholding ground.

Ms Collins said there would also be new protections for third-party information and other issues related to the Privacy Act.

But Green spokeswoman Holly Walker said the Government's response was disappointing.

"The Law Commission recommended a substantive review and possible rewrite of the act, but instead the Government is tinkering around the edges . . . picking out the recommendations that suit it, like creating new ways of withholding information."

It was ignoring recommendations it did not like, including extending the act to cover Parliament.

The commission reviewed the Official Information Act and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. It found the legislation's underlying principles were sound and fundamentally working well, Ms Collins said.

The Government would support improved education and guidance from the Ombudsman's Office - the independent authority that advises government agencies and acts as a watchdog over the public's right to receive information.

Ms Collins said the Government would review the acts' operation "and progress any remaining recommendations as opportunities arise and priorities allow".

"The Government is committed to openness and transparency, streamlining processes and reducing red tape." 

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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