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Sunday, April 02, 2006

FOI in the news

Media reports over the last week based on documents released under FOI included The Daily Telegraph reports on 30 and 31 March about dioxin levels in Sydney Harbour. The 30 March report revealed that a ministerial briefing note last December had alerted the Government to the fact that RiverCats had churned poisonous sediments in the Parramatta River. The latter said that the NSW Food Authority had advised the Government that fishermen had been exposed to unacceptable levels of dioxin and should be regarded as a special risk category.

The Sydney Morning Herald on 2 April has an article "Department accused of dishonesty over report" which on the basis of documents released under FOI says that the Department of Education removed a key part of a recommendation regarding a mentoring program for teachers before posting the report on its website.

The Australian on 29 March had a detailed story about internal differences between members of the Australian Research Council about decisions concerning the allocation of $274 million in academic research grants.

It followed up on 30 March with an article about the content of a still secret consultant’s report on the funding adequacy and efficiency of the ABC. The article was based on a draft executive summary of the KPMG Report which the Government had refused to release claiming it to be a confidential budget document.

Our favourite of the week however was a report in Adelaide's The Advertiser on 30 March that days after the SA election, thousands of pages of documents on ministerial travel expenses and the operations of top level government boards and committees were released to the Upper House Opposition Leader Rob Lucas. Lucas said that the applications for documents had been made last November and the long delay in responses made a mockery of the Premier's promise of open and accountable government.

A Government spokeswoman said that 170 applications had been lodged on the same day, some responses had been provided before the election, and all had been dealt with by departmental officers, with the Government having nothing to do with the timing of responses or the material contained in them.

We'd like to give you the links to all the above stories but many Australian media webpages do not provide free access to reports after a couple of days. Sorry about that.

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