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Sunday, July 16, 2006

FOI in the news

Media reports based on Freedom of Information applications this week include:

The Age 9 July: “Hospitals lacking 550 beds. Report warns of longer waiting times” –Victorian public hospitals are short of hundreds of beds, making them ill-equipped to cope with the demand for elective surgery, a report has warned. The State Government-commissioned report put the 2005-06 shortfall of hospital beds available for elective surgery at about 550. The worst affected areas were orthopedic and plastic surgery.

The Australian 10 July: “Wildlife may threaten development” - According to documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws, BHP says the petrel and the whale may live in areas affected by a proposed desalination plant in the upper Spencer Gulf of South Australia. The animals are included in a list of flora and fauna referred to the Environment Department as potentially affected by the expansion.

Herald Sun 10 July: “2.7 mil guineapigs - Victoria's animal experiments skyrocket” - More than 2.7 million animals were used for scientific experiments in Victoria in a single year, new figures reveal. Testing on animals rose dramatically in 2004, the most recent data shows.. Experiments included ``burning or scalding'' 66 sheep and ``interference of the central nervous system'' of 6500 animals including 15 cats, five pigs and nine rabbits.. Some 2.1 million chickens were used in a project to test a vaccine for Newcastle disease.

Herald Sun 11 July: “Panda does Paris - Taxpayers pay $30,000 bill” – Victorian Tourism Minister John Pandazopoulos lived it up in the Paris Hilton during a $30,000 taxpayer-funded luxury European trip. The minister cost taxpayers almost $12,000 on first class airfares to London for a journey described as a vital “sales mission'' to Europe and Britain.. Mr Pandazopoulos spent two weeks travelling around Europe enjoying some of the continent's most prestige accommodation.

The Australian 13 July: “Files turn up heat on Green to resign” - A Not-for-profit body seeking to compete with a monopoly run by two former Labor ministers claims its application was "not treated seriously" by Tasmanian Deputy Premier Bryan Green. Documents show the would-be competitor became so frustrated at the manner of its treatment by Mr Green that it accused the Government of "acting either unconscionably or incompetently". The documents, obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws, will place further pressure on Mr Green, whose resignation is being demanded by opposition parties. Mr Green has been accused in parliament of signing a "corrupt" secret deal in February to enshrine the Tasmanian Compliance Corporation's monopoly on builder accreditation.

The Age 13 July: “Ambo workers' sick claims double” - The number of injured or stressed paramedics and other ambulance officers making WorkCover claims has almost doubled in five years, costing the state more than $13 million in that time. Figures show the number of claims made by ambulance workers in Victoria rose from 106 in 2000-01 to 193 in 2004-05. Of the claims in 2004-05, 120 related to manual handling, lifting and moving patients - likely to become a growing problem if rates of obesity continue to grow.

The Advertiser 13 July: “Rann won't retreat on law” - Tensions between government and the judiciary were "healthy", South Australian Premier Mike Rann said yesterday. Mr Rann said if there was no tension between the various wings of a democratic system then it would be "a cosy relationship" similar to"Queensland in the '60s". Mr Rann's comments came after letters released to The Advertiser under Freedom of Information laws show Chief Justice John Doyle had called on him to show restraint when commenting on judicial and criminal law issues.

The Sydney Morning Herald 14 July: “Displaced public servants survive Iemma Government purge” – The NSW Premier, Morris Iemma, had promised to "tighten" the list of unattached public servants. But figures show the public servants were costing $17.8 million on June 1, three months after the audit, compared with $17.4 million in March. The audit showed there were still 262 unattached public servants on June 1 - among them, 44 people who had been on the payroll without a job for more than a year - up from 33 in August 2005.

The Sydney Morning Herald 15 July - In his weekly column “What they won’t tell you” FOI Editor Matthew Moore in “When you can't trust organic labels” reports on an attempt to obtain details of country of manufacture of organic tampons shown to be falsely certified by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Herald Sun 15 July: “Our speeding MPs caught” – Victorian Police Minister Tim Holding is among scores of state politicians caught speeding in their government cars.

Sunday Herald Sun 16 July: “Tough at the top” – Victorian Premier Steve Bracks’s recent overseas trip has cost tax payers $250,000.

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