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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Too many old secrets in SA.

South Australia has been mentioned here before as one state that has shown little interest in change to promote more transparency in government. In this editorial The Sunday Mail suggests that the Government's claim that cabinet documents are released after 20 years in SA is not supported by its experience in trying to access some records. For example
"Last year, the Sunday Mail went through the painful process of requesting Cabinet documents related to the 1978 sacking of then police commissioner Harold Salisbury by former Premier Don Dunstan, and the subsequent Royal Commission headed by Dame Roma Mitchell. We wanted to see what documents Cabinet and the Premier used to make these decisions and inform their debate. Our request required an application under Freedom of Information. It was denied. An appeal against this ruling would have cost some $20,000 and it was made clear from the outset the documents would never be released....

All the Sunday Mail received on the Salisbury sacking was the basic two-page executive order signed by the Governor, Premier and some chief bureaucrat. All other documents were refused by the FoI officer for the Premier's department, Warren McCann – also its CEO. The oddity, later discovered, was that some of the very same documents could in fact be found among the personal papers of Dame Roma, donated to the State Library."

The Sunday Mail comments:

"Successive governments have shown no will to change; their natural inclination is to do their business in secret. Just last week, Premier Mike Rann showed his disdain for FoI, saying mounting claims by the Opposition in particular "chew up a huge amount of time". SA can be an exemplar of change only by moving to replace this inbred concealment with a default right to access information. If there was greater political will, there would be no FoI backlog."

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