Freedom of Information

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                                                       Freedom of Information
                                                          By Artur Victoria

   One of the temptations of all government is to restrict Freedom of Information. It sometimes seems
that the strongest Freedom of information legislation is always the first Act, introduced by a reformist
government before it has secrets to hide. Freedom of Information is one of the most central cogs in
integrity systems and should be seen as such. To fulfill this role, the rationale for restrictions should be
rethought and the procedures changed to reflect that.

 We see the key to reform in emphasizing that the information belongs to the public. It is not the
property of the politicians. It is the property of the public they claim to represent and on behalf of whom
they are governing. It would be a serious abuse of power to use powers given to them by information
legislation to protect themselves from the judgment of the people. It would be an even more serious
abuse of power to use legislation such an Official Secrets Act to block the release of information that
reflects adversely on their performance or exposes lies that they had told in order to pursue a particular
policy or to hold on to office.

 This is not to say that there are not some valid reasons for withholding the release of information.
However, the presumption should be in favor of release. Rather than requiring someone to apply for
the release of information, most documents that get beyond a certain stage in the policy process
should be posted on websites (this will incidentally save the cost of handling FOI requests) and all
other documents should be available without review in a matter of days at reasonable cost. Those who
want to withhold documents should have to justify this decision to an independent body. The body
might permit classes of documents to be withheld subject to spot checks of what was in those
documents and subject to an FOI application from citizens for particular documents that they want (as
is the case now).

 It would be up to the official to initiate action to withhold information rather than up to the citizen to
seek it. Such an approach would not only make it much easier to get information, it would help change
attitudes to documents in government. It would be more difficult to withhold rather than release
information and, for once, sloth and lack of time would be on the side of virtue!

Judicial Appointment

Judges perform a critical role in integrity systems. However, the reasons for the appointment of one

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                                              Presented by Daniel Toriola

judge over another are rarely public and sometimes partisan. There are four safeguards against

 - The first is the possibility of appeal and reversal against decisions made — always a potential
embarrassment as well as defeating the purpose of ‘stacking’. This safeguard is, of course,
non-existent in ultimate appellate courts.

 - The second safeguard is the tenure of judges. Even here there can be problems where judges can
be ‘promoted’ to another court.

 - The third is that judges are joining a collegial institution where the opinion of their fellow judges is
important to them. This works very well where judges have been appointed by different governments
with different preferences and, especially, where they have appointed individuals with strong
independent views. However, where a government holds power for a long time, stacking becomes a
real possibility and the abovementioned safeguards are neutered.

 - The fourth safeguard is that their decisions and reasons given are public. While few members of the
general public read them, barristers do and judges are generally very keen to be thought to have
integrity and ability by those who appear before them. This may seem ironic given the formally
obsequious way in which barristers address the bench in many jurisdictions. However, in spite of this,
or perhaps because of it, they appear very keen on the respect of their former peers.

 Reforming judicial appointments is extremely difficult. Unfortunately, the power to appoint judges is
much prized by Attorneys-General and governments. However, an attorney or government that
bequeathed an improved system with a judicial commission to consider criteria, recommend
appointments, provide judicial education, and recommend on disciplinary action, would be most
valuable and in some jurisdictions, critical.

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                                      Freedom! The Battle Cry of the Business Owner
                                                             By Denise O'Berry

Freedom! The Battle Cry of the Business Owner
 by: Denise O'Berry

"I wanted freedom from a boss so I started my own business. Now I need freedom from my business
because it's running my life." Sound like you?

Here are three tips to help you find that freedom.

1. Put your stake in the ground. Where are you headed with your business? Can't answer because
you're too busy working on yesterday's problems? Stop and do it now. Much of your freedom is being
eaten up by activities that won't get you where you want to go. Define where that is and work toward it.

2. Set boundaries. Don't take on work that steals time you should be dedicating to focusing on sales of
your core product or service. Sometimes you just have to say "no." Be careful about performing
business functions that "don't cost anything." Put a dollar value on your time. Outsource. It will cost you
less in the long run.

3. Take action. Talking and thinking about doing things that will grow your business are necessary.
Writing them down and making them happen is even better. Identify the critical steps you must take
now to get closer to the freedom you seek.

Denise O'Berry helps small business owners take action to grow their business. Find out more at

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                                               Presented by Daniel Toriola

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Freedom! The Battle Cry of the Business Owner
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