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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Exceptions to 30 year rule still rule

One aspect of the annual release of Federal Government cabinet documents thirty years old that did not attract much attention was what was not released because of continuing sensitivity. Fairfax papers did report as follows:
Not all of the 1979 cabinet documents have been released: at least 24 were censored. Most of these were in the areas of defence, foreign affairs, and security and intelligence. Australians are not able to see entire cabinet information on defence spending, Chinese and Russian policies on Vietnam's invasion of Kampuchea, ASIS' move to Canberra, pro-Palestinian terrorist interests, an assessment of threats to internal security, Antarctic mineral resources, and security of ESSO/BHP installations in Gippsland. Sections of documents have been withheld mainly to protect Australia's security, defence or international relations.
Here are the published details of documents withheld ( only one) or withheld in part.
Apart from an assertion that the documents contain information that attracts one or more of the exemption provisions, no reasons are publicly given for these claims. As with last year's withheld documents you have to wonder what is still sensitive 30 years later given some of these tiles. And about the Proposal by REDCO for Joint Marketing on Ranger Uranium which had parts removed because after all this time disclosure would adversely impact on the business, commercial or financial affairs of a person, organisation or undertaking, or because of legal professional privilege and disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. Over a decade ago the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that legal privilege alone should not be grounds for continuing to withhold 30 year old documents- a recommendation governments since have ignored.

Legislation currently before the Parliament would replace the 30 year rule with  20 years- no mention of that ALRC recommmendation or some others that have not been acted upon.

I'm not sure what this says about the status in which bloggers are held in Archives but two emails asking for information released to the media under embargo on 8 December be made available to this blogger didn't even prompt a reply let alone a positive one.

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