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Sunday, July 23, 2006

FOI in the news

Media reports based on FOI applications during the week included:

The Sunday Age 16 July:
“Cheaper off-peak travel the ticket –free ride – the future for public transport” - The Victorian Government is considering cheaper off-peak public transport fares to increase patronage. An internal Government briefing paper confirms an analysis by The Sunday Age earlier this year that free public transport would boost patronage by up to 30 per cent.. But it rejects this solution, saying improving services would result in even higher passenger numbers. The Department of Infrastructure paper dismisses free travel or low-cost fares in peak times, but says lower fares during off peak should be considered.

“Lonsdale streets ahead on fines” – Victoria’s most fined street nets the City of Melbourne almost $2 million a year. An average of 103 fines a day are handed out by parking officers patrolling Lonsdale Street in the CBD, making it easily the most fined street in the state. Figures show that, in the year to April, Melbourne City Council slapped 38,000 parking fines on cars in Lonsdale Street. Across the CBD, 412,000 parking fines were handed out.

Daily Telegraph 17 July: "Jail care a $70m sick joke” - Inmates are undergoing plastic surgery, hormone therapy and erection dysfunction procedures as taxpayers fund an expanding prison health system costing nearly $70 million-a-year. Prison medical care has featured 256 elective surgery operations over the past two years.

Herald Sun 17 July:
“Dead suspect protected” – Victorian Police on internal review have confirmed an earlier decision to refuse access to the full criminal history of a suspected double murderer despite him being dead. The decision was based on the fact that a coronial inquiry has yet been held into the deaths.
“Casual teachers a $200m emergency” - Victorian state schools have spent $200 million on emergency teachers to cover classes while staff are away.

Herald Sun 20 July: "Baldy wants details kept secret" reports on a Victorian Tribunal hearing of a case in which a local resident is seeking access to documents about why a notorious pedophile was allowed to live near a primary school when freed on parole last year.

Herald Sun 20 July: “Waiting to die – Deaths that should cause an outcry” – this opinion piece draws on earlier reports that 250 of the 500 people on Victorian hospital waiting lists die unnecessarily each year.

Daily Telegraph 20 July: “Poisoned by our Harbour – every family tests positive for toxins” - Blood tests on Sydney Harbour commercial fishermen and their families have found that every one of them has dangerously high levels of dioxins in their bodies. The test results, which will be released to the families today, show all 95 people tested have dioxin levels between twice and 10 times the Australian average.

Herald Sun 21 July: “Rocks report ignored" - A consultant's report on the Seal Rocks Centre on Phillip Island has been leaked to the Opposition after a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision that the document was not available under FOI because of the Cabinet Document exemption.

The Australian 21 July: “Mandarins told how to beat FOI” – Australia’s top bureaucrats have been briefed on a strategy to prevent embarrassment to their political masters.. The powerful mandarins of Prime Minister, Treasury, Defence and other departments met in Canberra on March 1, and were told how so-called conclusive certificates could be used to stop the release of damaging documents sought under Freedom of Information laws. Details of the meeting, obtained by The Australian using FOI, include guidance that in the event of review, the only issue for consideration is whether “reasonable” grounds existed for the issue of a certificate.

Weekend Australian 22 July: "Diggers go AWOL 2500 times” – Defence personnel have gone AWOL more than 2500 times in the past three years, with some soldiers failing to turn up for flights to East Timor and sailors missing as warships prepare to leave port. Australian Defence Force documents reveal thousands of disciplinary breaches across the services.

Herald Sun 22 July: “$168,000 in freebies for Games“ – Chinese officials, big business and bureaucrats have emerged as big winners in a $168,000 Town Hall splurge on Commonwealth Games tickets.

Sydney Morning Herald 22 July: In his weekly “What they won’t tell you” column FOI Editor Matthew Moore in "What a government charges to open a drawer" invites entries for the slowest public service filing clerk award and includes examples of slow response times to FOI applications, particularly in circumstances where the relevant documents would have already been identified and collated for other purposes.

As usual some links have disappeared from free content.

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