Government Transparency in Decision Making

Sven Bluemmel  
Victoria Information Commissioner, Australia


Freedom of information (FOI) regimes are a hallmark of modern democracies and a crucial element of any government transparency and integrity framework. This paper examines how government responses to COVID-19 brought the need for greater transparency of government decision making to the fore. Genuine engagement with FOI regimes provides a fundamental mechanism to keep government decision makers accountable and increases and maintains trust capital between citizens and the state. In turn, governments rely on this trust capital to take strong and decisive action—as highlighted by global responses to COVID19. The author argues that FOI is an important mechanism to challenge poor government decision making, and ultimately enhance the long-term health of our democracy.


1. Bartos, S. 2020. “If you’re in the public service, the fundamentals will never, ever change.” The Mandarin (online), 16 October. Accessed 20/10/2020
2. Biddle, N., Edwards, B., Gray, M., Hiscox, M., McEachern, S. and Sollis, K. 2020. “Data trust and data privacy in the COVID- 19 period” ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods COVID-19 publications. Accessed 11/1/21
3. Burton, T. 2020. “App rewrites the rules for government services.” The Financial Review (online), 21 May. Accessed 12/10/20
4. Calland, R. and Bentley, K. 2013. “The Impact and Effectiveness of Transparency and Ac-countability Initiatives: Freedom of Infor-mation.” Development Policy Review, 31(1): 69-77.
5. Cameron, S. and McAllister, I. 2019. The 2019 Australian Federal Election: Results from the Australian Election Study (December 2019). Accessed 12/10/20.
6. Chanley, V., Rudolph, T. and Rahn, W. 2000. “The Origins and Consequences of Public Trust in Government: A Time Series Analysis.” The Public Opinion Quarterly, 64 (3): 239- 256.
7. Dalton, R. 2005. “The Social Transformation of Trust in Government.” International Review of Sociology, 15(1): 133-154.
8. Human Rights Committee, General Comments No 34 (2011): Freedom of opinion and expres-sion (Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights) UN CCPR/C, 102nd session, UN Doc CCPR/C/GC/34 (12 September 2011).
9. Kelley, J. 2020. “Governments Must Commit to Transparency During COVID-19 Crisis” Elec-tronic Frontier Foundation, online, 20 March. Accessed 25/9/20.
10. Ludwig, J. 2010. “The Freedom of Information Act - No Longer a Substantial Disappointment.” Administrative Review Council – Admin Review 59 (4).
Accessed 6/10/20.
11. Martin, W. 2017. The Global Information Socie-ty. Routledge, New York.
12. McDonagh, M. 2013. “The Right to Information in International Human Rights Law.” Human Rights Law Review 13 (1): 25 – 55.
13. Mueller, J. 1970. “Presidential Popularity from Truman to Johnson.” The American Political Science Review, 64 (1): 18 – 34.
14. NSW Ombudsman, 2009. Opening up govern-ment: Review of the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (Special Report to Parliament under s 31 of the Ombudsman Act 1974, February 2009), 57.
Accessed 12/10/2020
15. OVIC. 2020. “The State of Freedom of Infor-mation in Victoria: Five years in review 2014 – 2019.”
Accessed 10/10/20
16. Snell, R. and Tyson, N. 2000. “Back to the Draw-ing Board: Preliminary Musings on Redesigning Australian Freedom of Information.” 85 Free-dom of Information Review 85: 2-6. Accessed 6/10/20
17. Stewart, D. 2015. “Assessing Access to Infor-mation in Australia: The impact of freedom of information laws on the scrutiny and operation of the Commonwealth government.” In Wanna, J., Lindquist, E. A. and Marshall, P. (eds.) New Accountabilities, New Challenges. ANU Press, Acton, Australia.
Accessed 7/10/20.
18. Triggs, G. 2017. “Overreach of Executive and Ministerial Discretion: A Threat to Australian Democracy.” Victoria University Law and Jus-tice Journal 71 (1). Accessed 12/10/20.
19. Vadlamannati, K. and Cooray, A. 2017. “Trans-parency Pays? Evaluating the Effects of the Freedom of Information Laws on Perceived Government Corruption.” Journal of Develop-mental Studies, 53 (1): 116 – 137.
20. van Holm, E. 2020. The Role of Partisanship, Circumstances, and Action on Citizen Views of Government Effectiveness during the Initial COVID-19 Response (May 7, 2020). Accessed 12/10/20
21. Waller, P., Morris, R.M., Simpson, D. and Hazell, R. 2009. “Understanding the Formulation and Development of Government Policy in the con-text of FOI.” Report prepared for the Infor-mation Commissioner’s Office by The Constitu-tion Unit, University College London. Accessed 6/10/20
How to Cite
Bluemmel S. Government Transparency in Decision Making. LiC [Internet]. 2021Sep.7 [cited 2022May24];37(2):119-24. Available from:

Send mail to Author

Send Cancel