ALIA's first objective is "To promote the free flow of information and ideas in the interest of all Australians and a thriving culture, economy and democracy". Freedom can be protected in a democratic society only if its citizens have unrestricted access to information and ideas.
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) believes public sector information should be recognised as a national resource to be developed and preserved in the public interest. ALIA defines public sector information as including:
- information created by parliamentary and government agencies;
- information created by commonwealth, state and local government agencies;
- directories such as Government directory online and Australia.gov.au;
- research commissioned by government agencies such as ARC and NHMRC funded research.
ALIA asserts that public sector information should be publicly available except where restricted by law, privacy considerations or is business in confidence and offers the following Principles of Access to Public Sector Information.
Statement of Principles
- The public has the right of access to government information. Government agencies should guarantee online, timely and uninhibited access to public sector information regardless of the original format of the materials, through the Internet.
- All research funded by government agencies should be published online, and grants for research should include a requirement that, whether published in commercial journals or elsewhere, a copy is made available through a publicly accessible repository in a timely manner on the completion of the research.
- Governments should guarantee the long term access to public sector information in a preservation archive, preferably through the National Library of Australia's Pandora archive.
- Public sector information should be available through a single license system with conditions equivalent to the Attribution Creative Commons license (see http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses).
- All online resources of government and parliamentary agencies must meet accessibility standards (w3c).
- The requirement for online access to public sector information should be mandated through legislation, such as the Commonwealth's Freedom of Information Reform Bill, 2009. The legislation should ensure long term access to these information resources.
- Governments should safeguard the privacy of persons who use or request information, as well as the privacy of persons about whom information exists in government records.
- Governments should actively support access through libraries, particularly public libraries, recognizing that for many these libraries provide the only easy access to the Internet and support local communities.
- Governments should not allow cost to obstruct individual users' access to government information. Costs incurred by creating, collecting and processing information should only cover direct costs.
- Governments should ensure that public sector information is easy to find including:
Through Internet search engines such as Google;
Through a single government information search services that meets accessibility standards (w3c);
Through each agencies web site search service;
For publications through Libraries Australia.
- Governments should increase public access to public sector information online through actively digitizing older materials such as Hansards, Parliamentary Papers and government reports.
The Australian Library and Information Association offers these principles of access public sector information as a means of ensuring public accountability, effective democratic participation and to build the Australian knowledge based. ALIA urges all levels of governments to adopt these principles to ensure the creation, use, dissemination and preservation of public sector information.