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Friday, May 19, 2006

FOI High Court case: high noon passes

The High Court heard submissions yesterday in the McKinnon v Treasury FOI case and will hand down its decision in due course. The Sydney Morning Herald report of the hearing “Bracket creep details belong to the public, say judges” seized on positive comments by three judges who the Herald claims “expressed disbelief” that the documents had been refused on public interest grounds.

The Australian – whose FOI editor Michael McKinnon is the plaintiff in the case - reported “Judge queries secrecy on public documents” more soberly, including in its report that several judges questioned the quality of the evidence put forward on its behalf.

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, when asked about the case this morning on ABC radio said that the matter rested with the judges but seemed to suggest that what had been sought were draft documents which may contain incorrect information. He explained that such documents would confuse members of the public. However this seems to miss the point that what was requested – outlined in this article earlier in the week – included reports and evaluations that provided the basis for government decisions. This didn’t quite rank with his comment earlier this year that the main object of FOI was to enable people to access information about themselves, but it was up in the same sort of territory.

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