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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Those bloody Victorian removalists!

Melissa Fyfe in The Age over Christmas reported on a second sloppy clean out of Brumby government offices that left a trail of papers showing inappropriate activity including interference with the Freedom of Information process:
Adviser notes and briefings found in desk drawers in the premier's office reveal that John Brumby blocked the appointment of an FOI officer because he was advised "she has consistently interpreted requests and made decisions to our detriment". The notes are the second instalment of damaging material apparently overlooked and left behind in desks by former advisers to Mr Brumby. The first, revealed last week, was an adviser's black notebook that detailed dirt unit activities and referred to the emails of then shadow frontbencher David Davis.
In the article Fyfe quotes Minister for Corrections and Crime Prevention Andrew McIntosh reiterating the government commitment to freedom of information reforms. You would think from this that he carried over into government the responsibility for FOI that was his in opposition. However the General Order of 10 December listed the Attorney General (Robert Clark) as the minister responsible for the Freedom of Information Act. (Generally the Premier's Department website where you might expect this sort of information to be prominent seems to have been struck by some terrible malaise, still presenting to the world six weeks later, as it was prior to the election. It's not the only agency like this but at least Justice has a  warning sign that information may be dated. There is no link there to Attorney General Clark who appears not to have said a word about anything except as reported in The Australian that the Charter of Human Rights is ineffective. The only minister apart from McIntosh who seems to have mentioned transparency is Minister for Heath David Davis)

Given Premier Baillieu' strong words about integrity, accountability and transparency while in opposition you would have hoped that a senior minister would have these responsibilities up there in lights in a title that would send a clear signal that things are to be different, allocated responsibilities that pulled the threads together, and with something clear and direct to say on the topic promptly on assuming office before the government disappeared for the summer. But no it was not to be.Three ministers, the Premier, Attorney General, and Minister McIntosh (also Minister responsible for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission) at least, appear to have parts of the puzzle. And no doubt will have something to say about the integrity agenda when things return to normality in February. But it hardly has a ring of urgency or reflect the priority that seemed so obvious from the opposition benches.

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