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Sunday, August 27, 2006

FOI in the news

Media reports based on FOI applications this week include:

The Australian 21 August: “Gallery's masterwork may be Nazi loot” - The National Gallery of Victoria has been accused of buying looted art and is locked in a struggle over a million-dollar portrait with the heirs of a famous Jewish collector who claim it was stolen by the Nazis.

Daily Telegraph 21 August: “No control, no class” – Documents reveal that NSW school teachers are experiencing several attacks a week from violent students in NSW public schools.

Courier Mail 23 August: “Corporate guzzlers hide names” – Brisbane City Council has refused access to details of water use for most of the 100 top commercial users, on the grounds that it would have an adverse effect on their business affairs. The Lord Mayor’s spokesperson commented that the Council could be sued “under FOI privacy laws” if the information was disclosed.

(Peter’s comment: confusion seems to reign in Brisbane and Sydney Councils concerning the link between FOI and privacy laws. But as Queensland doesn’t have a privacy act, (just an administrative order) who knows what this means?)

The Age 23 August: “BHP claims 'clean hands' over Iraq” - BHP Billiton has told the Government its "hands are clean" in Iraq because it left all liaison with Saddam Hussein's regime to Tigris Petroleum, its controversial joint-venture partner.

Daily Telegraph 23 August: “$12,000 a week for ferry crew cabfares” – Sydney Ferries have spent almost $2million on cabfares for staff called in to work or required to work extended hours.

Daily Telegraph 24 August: “Public servants charge it - Bureaucrats in credit card fraud” - At least five cases of public servant corporate credit card fraud or misuse, including inventing fictitious work expenses and using them for personal cash advances have been discovered by a NSW Treasury audit.

The Australian 25 August: “Asylum centre's deadly asbestos" - Hundreds of detainees and workers who have been through Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre may have been exposed to asbestos fibres after a federal government department wrongly declared the site to be safe four years ago.

Daily Telegraph 26 August: “Stop spin doctoring and hire more police” – documents released to the NSW Opposition disclose that the number of gun seizures has dropped from 290 to 31 to June this year.

Sydney Morning Herald 23 & 24 August: Several articles about efforts to obtain information about restaurants fined over food safety standards. See our earlier blog.

Sydney Morning Herald 26 August: In his weekly “What they wont tell you” column FOI Editor Matthew Moore in “Tribunal gets clause into public information” reports on an Administrative Decisions Tribunal decision to uphold a confidentiality agreement between the Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney and her employer to exempt the employment contract.
For our comment see earlier blog.

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