FoI and the Delivery of Diminishing Returns, or How Spin-Doctors and Journalists have Mistreated a Volatile Reform

Rick Snell, University of Tasmania


Freedom of Information (FoI), spin-doctors, and journalists offer a volatile mix in Australian politics. Whilst the promise of open government is seen as an essential pre-requisite for a functioning representative democracy the dynamics of FoI seem to offer no easy path to that destination. Australian journalism has tended to undervalue, under use and underestimate the potential of FoI. The increasing involvement of spin-doctors in the day-to-day activities of public administration further hampers the fourth estate role of journalism. Paradoxically it is the resurgence of public service ethics and values that may offer the best way to reform the practice, administration and effectiveness of FoI.

Rick Snell is Senior Lecturer in Administrative Law, The University of Tasmania and National Editor of the Freedom of Information Review.

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