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Thursday, February 04, 2010

FOI: Cat on ladder with a key

It will take a long time for the Opposition to live down its record on the transparency front while in government, but it doesn't mean criticisms aren't worth noting. And some metaphors aren't bad either. Here's the Liberal Member for Paterson, and Shadow Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Bob Baldwin in the House yesterday during debate on Appropriations Bills:
"It is now beyond any doubt that this Labor government has no ability to deliver on any of its intentions, promises or policies. For example, the intent of Operation Sunlight was to increase transparency of budgetary estimates and improve the readability of budget papers, yet this latest appropriation bill still smacks of Labor’s light touch in regard to transparency. An increase in transparency could be described in layman’s terms as being like installing a large glass window in a brick wall, thereby allowing the outside world to peer through and see what is on the other side. However, transparency according to the gospel of Prime Minister Rudd and his Labor disciples would be more akin to installing a small cat flap in the highest corner of the wall which can only be as accessed with a ladder and opened with a key. Now, the only key that regularly opens this cat flap is wielded by the freedom of information laws, and even then the Rudd Labor government does its level best to hinder those attempting to gain access to what should be classified as public information. That is hardly what I would describe as transparency in government."
The contentious issue is how big that glass window really needs to be. Baldwin went on to point out that the Bill included an additional $690 million worth of extra funding for the Department of Defence but no actual breakdown.
"In fact, this bill states that there is $528 million earmarked for ‘the protection and advancement of Australia’s national interests through the provision of military capability and the promotion of security and stability’. A further $108 million is to be used for ‘the advancement of Australia’s strategic interests through the conduct of military operations and other tasks directed by government’. It is plain to see that the level and amount of information substantiating the appropriation of over half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money is, I am afraid to say, more than just a little light-on; it is downright shameful and a deliberate act of obfuscation."
Back in May last year I wondered if anyone with the skills and experience in such things had done an assessment of the Government's delivery of the promise of Operation Sunlight. Didn't see or hear a word, so still wondering?

Thanks to Open Australia for the Hansard link

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