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Monday, October 02, 2006

FOI in the news

Media reports based on FOI applications over the last week include:

Daily Telegraph September 25 :" Parking fine issued every 48 seconds - Revenue-raising madness: motorists fume over greedy councils" - Motorists across NSW are hit with a parking fine every 48 seconds. Councils levied fines totalling $116 million, up $22 million on last year. Sydney City Council continues to be the state's biggest issuer of parking fines with its revenue was valued at $32.01 million. In follow up story on 26 September, "Safety is second to revenue - councils count cash" - the Telegraph said that an analysis of the 1,125,613 infringement notices issued show that half were for the harmless act of staying too long - offences endangering lives are weakly enforced.

ABC News 25 September: "School closures files dispute reaches court" - The ACT Opposition has commenced legal action in an attempt to force the Territory Government to release documents relating to school closures.

Daily Telegraph September 26: "Our kindergarten cops - Half of police in the job for less than five years " - Almost half of NSW Police's frontline troops have less than five years experience, prompting concerns the community is being patrolled by a force of juniors. On latest projections that figure could blow out to almost 60 per cent by next January when the State Government fulfils its promise of adding 750 police.

Daily Telegraph September 27: "Red faces over FOI document" - Education chiefs have been forced into an embarrassing backflip over their failure to provide a legitimately-requested document under Freedom of Information laws. Director-General Andrew Cappie-Wood has admitted that a document relating to controversial school closures should have been made available when it was sought three years ago. The departmental paper was requested in October 2003 by a group trying to save Beacon Hill High School.

The Sydney Morning Herald September 28: "Costello defends sect's tax breaks" - The fundamentalist Christian sect, the Exclusive Brethren, is essentially no different to mainstream churches and is therefore entitled to the same tax exemptions and other breaks, the Treasurer, Peter Costello, says. Amid growing criticism of the movement's activities and alleged political influence, Mr Costello said the Exclusive Brethren was "just a religion that is not as well-known" as the Catholic and Uniting Churches, and the Church of Scientology.

The Age September 29: "Greens try to overhaul state FOI regulations - State poll countdown" - The Victorian Government would be required to have the state's Ombudsman sign off on cabinet documents it felt were too sensitive to release, under a plan by the Victorian Greens to overhaul freedom of information laws.

Weekend Australian September 30: "Judge lays down law to rich neighbour" - The arrival of new money in Brisbane's most exclusive enclave has led to a costly legal squabble between neighbours, pitting one of Queensland's wealthiest women, Maxine Horne, against Federal Court judge Berna Collier. At stake are property values, multi-million-dollar views, sun on the backyard pool and polite society harmony.

The Sydney Morning Herald September 30: In his weekly column "What they won't tell you" FOI Editor Matthew Moore in "In the land where nobody cares" writes about international "Right to Know" day (see our earlier blog on this topic) and the absence of any Australian ongoing advocacy group fighting for effective FOI laws.

Sunday Telegraph October 1: - Three stories apparently based on documents released to Opposition MPs:
"Watch on air toxins axed" - The NSW Government stopped monitoring cancer-causing air pollutants, known as air toxics, two years ago because of budget cuts, confidential government papers reveal. The Government scrapped its Sydney air toxics monitoring program in 2004, expressly against advice from officials in its own Department of the Environment and the Federal Government.

"Motorway plan sparks new debate" - A NSW government investigation into the F6 Corridor, a strip of land between Sutherland and Sydney Airport set aside for a new motorway, railway line or busway, has come to light. The report will reignite debate over the State Government's on-again, off-again F6 Motorway proposal in the lead-up to the election next March.

"Labor's selective school security" - Millins of dollars are being spent upgrading school security in Labor electorates while children attending schools in Coalition-held seats are missing out. 44 of the 58 schools granted funds to build security fencing have been in seats held by Labor MPs.

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