15.1 Cultural change is an important factor in driving reforms, including a shift in emphasis from a much criticised ‘culture of secrecy’[1] towards principles of open government. As one stakeholder commented in the context of the introduction of Government 2.0:

Leadership from the highest levels and generational change is required to make this a reality. The key is not to expect too much too soon as transparency is a terrifying concept for most government agencies and their officers.

All of the technical, legal and logistical problems will be solvable, but worthless without real cultural change at all levels of government.[2]

15.2 This chapter focuses on strategies for promoting an effective information-handling culture among Australian Government agencies and their employees. An effective information-handling culture minimises the unauthorised handling of Commonwealth information while encouraging information sharing in appropriate circumstances.

15.3 The first section of this chapter examines the various risk factors that may lead to inappropriate information sharing and a number of strategies that may overcome these risks. In particular, the ALRC considers the role of senior employees and supervisors, training and development programs, oaths and affirmations of secrecy and avenues for employees to ask questions and raise concerns. Clear and well-disseminated information-handling policies and effective information and communication technology (ICT) platforms, as recommended in Chapter 14, will also assist in promoting compliance with information-handling responsibilities.

15.4 The chapter goes on to consider strategies to promote effective information-handling culture at the level of Australian Government agencies—in particular, by recommending a role for the proposed Information Commissioner.[3]

[1] See comments in Australian Law Reform Commission and Administrative Review Council, Open Government: A Review of the Federal Freedom of Information Act 1982, ALRC 77 (1995), Ch 4.

[2] Government 2.0 Taskforce, Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper (2009), 13. The Government 2.0 Taskforce is discussed in Ch 2.

[3] As discussed below, establishment of an Information Commissioner for the Australian Government is the subject of the Exposure Draft, Information Commissioner Bill 2009 (Cth).