17 April 2020

The OAIC recognises the severe impact of the current COVID-19 outbreak on our community and around the world. The work of government is essential to ensuring public health and safety during this crisis.

We acknowledge that delivering government services in the current environment poses many difficulties. It is also critical that we continue to recognise the importance of the right to access information.

We have joined with our state and territory counterparts to issue a public statement on the continued importance of transparency during the pandemic.

Transparency and access to information in the context of a global pandemic

Australian Information Access Commissioners join with their international counterparts in their clear call for transparency and the right to access information as governments, businesses and citizens deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following statement has been released by International Conference of Information Commissioners:

The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) brings unprecedented challenges for our society, both nationally and globally.

Public authorities must make significant decisions that affect public health, civil liberties and people’s prosperity.

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

As a global community, we recognise that resources may be diverted away from usual information rights work. 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.

But the importance of the right to access information remains.

Public bodies must also recognise the value of clear and transparent communication, and of good record-keeping, in what 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. We ask governments to support this vision.

We add our support and gratitude to those who are dedicated to tackling the current pandemic.

Members of the ICIC Governance Working Group

Co-signed by:

Angelene Falk
Australian Information Commissioner

Elizabeth Tydd
Information Commissioner, New South Wales

Rachael Rangihaeata
Information Commissioner, Queensland

Michael Manthorpe
Ombudsman, ACT

Sven Bluemmel
Information Commissioner, Victoria

Catherine Fletcher
Information Commissioner, Western Australia

Richard Connock
Ombudsman, Tasmania

Brenda Monaghan
Deputy Information Commissioner, Northern Territory

Wayne Lines
Ombudsman, South Australia