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Information commissioner John McMillan (pictured right with then minister Brendan O'Connor) has not been replaced since resigning in June, nor has the FOI commissioner who left in January. AAP/Alan Porritt

Closing down FOI: a case study in sneaky government

In a year and a half the Abbott government managed, in practice, to undo the painstaking reforms of the federal Freedom of Information (FOI) system.
Tony Abbott opens the campaign office for Liberal candidate Ken Wyatt in 2010. Now he and all incumbent MPs enjoy a $300,000 advantage over their challengers at the next election. AAP/Dean Lewins

Budget’s $45m slush fund for MPs is an unethical use of public money

'Better Communities' funding is supposedly non-partisan: every electorate gets $300,000 for local projects. But only incumbent MPs have a say in this spending and 60% of them are government members.
Notions of the ‘right to know’ forced Hillary Clinton to defend her use of a private email account as secretary of state - a far cry from the days when citizens didn’t even know how their representatives voted. EPA/Andrew Gombert

The right to know vs the need for secrecy: the US experience

The idea of the right to know as the 'lifeblood of democracy' is a surprisingly modern development. And in an age when transparency is prized, privacy and secrecy can still be justified in many cases.
Governments produce enormous amounts of data. The open data movement wants to make that available to all citizens. r2hox/Flickr

Good governance and active citizenship require open data

The open data movement is gaining momentum but we need to reflect on our priorities and values in order to make further progress.
Australian producers are struggling to face challenges imposed by a changing screen industry – and greater transparency will benefit everyone. AAP Image/Gaye Gerard

How Australian filmmakers can benefit from sharing information

There is an emerging push for greater transparency in the industry about how films are funded and the profits they return. But can sharing information can help a financially risky industry into the black?
John Howard sealed his fate by going too far with WorkChoices, but he got the balance right and succeeded with the GST reform. AAP/Andrew Brownbill

Why not listen to the people for a solution to the reform stalemate?

The distinction between the global and the local is collapsing under the pressure of climate change, economic restructuring, global migration and jihadism on the one hand and the populist and information…
What are we voting for? Certainly not decisions made in MPs' own interest or that of political parties or business cronies, but the present system lets that happen. AAP/Andrew Brownbill

It’s hard for voters to trust leaders who won’t promise true integrity

The Accountability Round Table (ART), a non-partisan organisation, wrote to the three major political parties two months ago seeking their position on three important arms of Victoria’s integrity system…
Many countries still need to clean up their act on anti-corruption and whistleblowing protections. Shutterstock

Anti-corruption bar set higher, but Australia still has more to do

Despite the adoption of a third two-year G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan, corruption received only a few lines in the latest G20 leaders’ communique. The credibility of the G20 as a whole now rests on…
The facts about mining revenues and taxation in Australia aren’t as clear as they should be under global transparency benchmarks. AAP/Rebecca Le May

Why isn’t Australia signing up to mining revenue transparency?

It’s a far-from-perfect instrument of global governance. But as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) coalition celebrates its 12th birthday, it can point to steadily increasing membership…
Attorney-General George Brandis has introduced laws that cast a blanket of secrecy over the use and potential abuse of sweeping national security powers. AAP/Lukas Coch

National security gags on media force us to trust state will do no wrong

It has been said that the line between good investigative reporting and inappropriate journalistic prying is never clearly drawn. Journalists usually complain long and hard when governments intervene to…
Citing ‘the national interest’ enables Julie Bishop and her government colleagues simply to assert the need for everything from tougher security laws to supplying arms to Iraqi rebels. AAP/Lukas Coch

‘National interest’ figleaf avoids debate on wars and terror laws

“There is no such thing as the national interest,” I tell my first-year Australian foreign policy students. This tends to stop them in their tracks. After all, if there is no such thing as the national…
What data from telcos and tech companies does the government want handed over? Flickr/Nic McPhee

When does Google hand over your data to governments?

Governments around the world want to know a lot about who we are and what we’re doing online and they want communications companies to help them find it. We don’t know a lot about when companies hand over…
Australia uses over seven million of the around 115 million animals used for scientific research each year worldwide. Ikayama/Flickr

Why Australia needs to catch up on animal research transparency

The UK government recently concluded a six-week consultation on discarding a section of its law on animal experimentation in the interest of openness. Australia doesn’t have such restrictive laws but we’re…
Making things black and white at The Bank of England. Mark Cornelius/Bank of England

ECB drama highlights the central bank transparency dilemma

When the European Central Bank sent markets reeling yesterday with moves designed to stimulate growth, the 24 people who made that decision could remain comfortable that their exact arguments and misgivings…

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