NSW Premier Nathan Rees has much to do in his new job, but nothing so urgent as reforming the State Government’s openness and transparency, The Daily Telegraph says in its Thursday morning edition.

The NSW Ombudsman’s Report 2007-08, released on Wednesday, concluded that secrecy is increasing in the NSW public sector, as judged by the number of refused Freedom of Information requests.

Some of the refused requests are confounding. The daughter of an elderly man who came home with bruises from a North Coast public hospital wanted documents about his treatment. She had to appeal to the Ombudsman.

In another case, a pensioners’ group wanting documents on a review of pensioner concessions from the Roads and Traffic Authority was lied to.

The NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour this year initiated his own inquiry into the state’s ageing FOI laws, which have become inadequate with new technology.

Incredibly, Barbour has been left alone to sort out government transparency – a task requiring much assistance.

Nathan Rees, as a matter of priority, needs to put on the table his reform plans for FOI, as has taken place in other states.

Included in those plans must be more accountability for MP perks, publication of private sector deals and penalties for anyone who willfully abuses FOI laws.