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Monday, February 26, 2007

What's this - an FOI user career path?

A couple of notable "people moves" in Freedom of Information land.

I hear that Michael McKinnon, FOI Editor at the Australian and famous for his unsuccessful High Court challenge last year, has left The Australian.

Before all you public servants who deal with FOI matters breathe a sigh of relief, word has it that he has gone to a similar job with Channel 7.

We await news on who will replace him at the Oz, but they aren't short of people who know their way around an FOI knock back.

Paul Whitaker who was appointed Editor of the Australian last week was a vigorous FOI applicant himself back in the days when he was a journalist with Brisbane's Courier Mail. One of his most famous FOI series - on former ALP Federal Minister and Labor Party heavyweight Graham Richardson - was based on a victory in the Queensland Information Commission - (see PDF). Despite objections from Richardson, The Commissioner granted Whitaker access to the prosecution brief for charges against a Richardson associate who pleaded guilty to a charge of procuring prostitutes. Six years later the decision still makes interesting reading about the public interest in access to information that throws light on a minister's "performance" of public functions. Whitaker also had to endure a Queensland Criminal Justice Commission inquiry into the source of leaks that provided material about various law enforcement agencies and their investigation of allegations of corruption concerning Richardson - recounted here by Richard Ackland.

In the UK, Steve Wood whose FOI blog has been invaluable to FOI watchers for the last few years has posted his last, prior to heading off for a job with the Information Commissioner. Its a classic case of poacher turns gatekeeper but sounds like a great appointment all round.

Steve says that the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information will keep the blog going.

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