For those wishing to see the disclosure of interest returns of Councillors in the past the process would have been to go to the Council offices and ask that the disclosure book be made available for scrutiny.
The process, though legal, was considered by those who wished to drill down into property ownership, as an unnecessarily measure given that State and Federal disclosures are available on the internet to ensure ease of access for openness and transparency.
Section 6 of the GIPA Act provides for the mandatory proactive release by NSW public sector agencies (including councils) of open access information. The GIPA Act provides that open access information must be made publicly available free of charge on a website maintained by the agency.
Councillors’ and designated persons’ disclosure of interest returns are prescribed as open access information for local government under Schedule 1 to the Government Information (Public Access) Regulation 2018.
The IPC has issued Information Access Guideline 1 – For Local Councils on the disclosure of information (returns disclosing the interest of councillors and designated persons) under sections 12(3) and 14(3) of the GIPA Act to assist councils to determine the public interest considerations for and against disclosure of information contained in disclosure of interest returns when publishing them on their websites.
The Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) has developed a video animation which provides guidance to councils on the requirement to publish disclosure of interest returns on their websites. The video is available here.
It is expected that Eurobodalla Council will now review how they currently publish disclosure of interest returns and bring them out from "under the counter" to their website by applying the principles set down by the new guidelines.