Applications have been received from the Seven Network and the West Australian, the first two months ago, but no decision on release has been taken. Each applicant has been told the important news first, that access would cost them $3740.80, and no splitting the cost between them should they each proceed. No one appears to have raised with the PM the question of publication of parts of the brief in line with the Treasury and Finance precedents, or pointed out how this might usefully contribute to public debate on matters of public interest-even on the topic of open government. Officials and the minister at the table were strongly attached to the idea that precedents set by others mattered not a jot, and that a departmental officer independently would make a decision on the applications free from ministerial direction. Sounds good, except the questioners were right to point out that the Prime Minister could simply direct that parts of the brief be published thus providing access at no cost and presumably to anyone interested.
That would be in line with her stated commitment to a new style of openness in government. And send a message to help with that transformation from 1 November that Australian Information Commissioner Designate McMillan spoke about earlier in the week.
Some of you just love your FOI and the cut and thrust of Estimates as well. For you, extracts follow:
Senator CORMANN—Thank you, Mr Chairman. Just by way of an opening question, have you received an FOI request for the Prime Minister and Cabinet department’s incoming government brief 2010?
Then onto other things...