Australia's information watchdog will be gutted over the next six months, as the government switches its policy emphasis from openness to privacy.
The budget marked the end of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, led by Professor John McMillan, which will be dismantled at the end of this year. The office has almost 90 staff in Canberra and Sydney, most of whom are expected to lose their jobs.
The watchdog oversees both freedom of information and privacy law, and one of its roles is to discourage public servants from being unnecessarily secretive.
It was an initiative of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, though Labor senator John Faulkner, a long-time advocate of government transparency, inspired its creation.
The Coalition, when in opposition, neither opposed nor enthusiastically backed the expansion of the FOI law that established the office.
Nor did the recent commission of audit recommend any substantial changes to the office; instead, it said government agencies needed to become more transparent.
However, Attorney-General George Brandis said the watchdog's functions would be folded into the proposed new super tribunal to "remove unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and deliver an improved and simplified merits review system".
A new Office of the Privacy Commissioner will be established on January 1 to oversee the privacy matters that Professor McMillan's agency handles.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said the federal government had gone to great lengths to conceal its actions since taking office.
"Senator Brandis and this government are clearly uncomfortable with the level of scrutiny that comes with office. This cut has come with no consultation and will make a minor saving at the cost of Australians' access to information about their government."
However, information law specialist Peter Timmins said the office might yet survive, given the government will need "substantial changes to legislation" to remove it.
"The Senate is unlikely to be a pushover, but the power of the purse strings may be enough to trump all in the final analysis," Mr Timmins said.
Professor McMillan's small agency has struggled to deal with a flood of requests to review FOI decisions, which has led to, at times, lengthy delays.
He said this week that his office's workload had "steadily increased in most areas over the last two years by between 10‑20 per cent".
However, Senator Brandis said the government's new "one-stop show" merits-review agency would give people "a review option that is fair, less confusing, just, economical, informal and quick".