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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ackerman and Devine 'in from the cold'

It should'nt pass unnoticed that the many critics of the Federal Government’s open government credentials, following the High Court decision in McKinnon v Secretary of Treasury, included two of our most conservative commentators, Piers Ackerman and Frank Devine. Their comments were "balanced" of course - including a spray on previous Labor governments and their penchant for secrecy. Some respondents on Ackerman's blog have been searching the records to identify any previous criticism of the Howard Government.

So it's not just the “usual suspects” who have expressed concern about the efforts of the Government to avoid disclosure of information about important issues of public interest and concern.

Piers Ackerman in the Daily Telegraph
“The tragic reality is that a cult of secrecy reigns at every level of government in this nation, from town and shire governments through to the state and federal levels.

This country’s politicians and public servants treat ordinary citizens with contempt and disdain and FOI, and equally repugnant privacy laws, will remain in place because they suit the governing class, just as the judiciary is enamoured with suppression laws that increasingly prevent us from monitoring the administration of justice in suburban courts.

While the media may appear to be the immediate losers and many in the public enjoy seeing the press take a shellacking, the continuing denial of transparency makes the nation the big loser”.
Frank Devine in the Australian said that while the power to issue conclusive certificates
“gives ministers an arbitrary power akin to that enjoyed by the King of Tonga under a more feudal constitution, most of us would probably concede the privilege to ministers if conclusive certificates were not so cynically bogus.

The reality is that governments of both persuasions have fought a guerilla war against FOI for 24 years, emboldened by possession of conclusive certificates as the ultimate deterrent. Their principal tactic is epic foot-dragging, so that, from a newspaper's point of view, information grows stale. Deceitful public relations is a back-up”.

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