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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fishing expedition turns up bill for $200,000 and some fishy business

There is nothing wrong with using the Freedom of Information laws for a fishing expedition but it can turn out to be an expensive business. The Australian reported at the weekend on an application for all documents held by the Department of Defence about Mamdouh Habib and his rendition from the time he was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 until now:
"The Defence Department came back with a preliminary assessment of $107,145.55 that includes 1038 hours and 15 minutes to identify the documents and decision-making time examining 85,418 pages of documents that "fall within the terms of the request". It also estimated it would cost $85,603.80 to examine 82,838 pages of documents generally relating to the US rendition program."
But then there's the fishy bit:
"The revelation about the amount of information Defence has appears to be at odds with evidence given to the Senate estimates committee earlier this year when officials said: "Defence has no record of involvement through meetings or through the provision of advice in the matter of the rendition of Mr Mamdouh Habib." The disclosure has prompted calls from NSW Labor backbencher Daryl Melham for the federal Government to reveal what it knows about the rendition. "There is a public interest matter in this ... This should not have to be like extracting teeth." Greens senator Scott Ludlam has put questions on notice, asking Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon to explain to parliament. "There appears to be a roomful of documents about a subject which they told parliament they know nothing about ... Something is a bit fishy here."

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