Okay, I just read over the Companion Document to the draft PATI legislation. For the most part I don’t have an issue with it, having basically covered it all in my review of the draft legislation itself. I do however have an issue with Sections Eight and Ten.
Section Eight answers my question (from my review of the draft legislation) about which Minister would be responsible for the legislation. I had thought that the best possible Minister would be the Attorney General (the Minister of Justice). I see that the Companion Document instead proposes the Premier be the Minister responsible.
It is important to stress that the Minister responsible for the legislation is different from saying that the Information Commissioner will be under the control of that Minister. As clearly stated in the draft legislation, the Information Commissioner will be an independent authority much like the Ombudsman.
I imagine that the reason why it is proposed that the responsible Minister be the Premier is based on the fact that it has been the Central Policy Unit (CPU) which has been responsible for developing this draft legislation. The CPU falls, as I understand it, under the remit of the Premier (other departments/units under the Premiers office include the Sustainable Development Unit and the Archives). Having said that, to me it would make more sense for the legislation to be passed to the Ministry of Justice now that the draft has been produced. However, an alternate argument can be made that it would be best for the legislation to continue under the control of the CPU. I understand that in the UK the equivalent legislation is under the responsibility of Minister of Justice for example. What is important though is that no matter which Minister is responsible for the legislation, the Information Commissioner is an independent body, similar to the Ombudsman or the Auditor General.
As for Section Ten, I am concerned about the length of time involved in commencing the legislation. I think three years is far too long, and while I can accept that not all departments/Government bodies may not all be ready to work within the legislation at the same time, I think the statement needs rewritten. It should instead read that all Government bodies will be compliant with the legislation within two years of its passage through parliament. Some bodies will be compliant immediately, but setting a deadline should help focus the activities of the relevant bodies and allay some public skepticism.