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Friday, August 19, 2011

Hits and misses

The latest results of a Google news search show plenty of recent FOI type hits and some misses. On this basis, and generalising, disclosure is improving. Some successes and failures of note, not otherwise mentioned here recently, include:
A report by health and safety authority Comcare - released under Freedom of Information - "found serious shortcomings with the immigration department's risk management processes, staff ratios and training. It found overcrowding is putting staff and detainee health and safety at risk and the department is exacerbating tensions by failing to take detainees' cultural and religious beliefs into account."

An internal audit, made public following a freedom of information request, revealed the Department of Finance and Deregulation "failed to meet its own compliance rules in 19 procurements out of a sample of 27 that occurred between 1 July 2009 and 31 March 2010."

Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information application by The Advertiser show this year already 1385 of the 5684 calls to the 1800 123 400 National Security hotline number "have been hoax or nuisance callers wasting the time of national police and anti-terror agencies...."

Documents obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws "show the National Counter-Terrorism Committee has set up a working group to overcome the legislative and regulatory impediments to agencies being able to tap into any CCTV system."

On  the mining tax, the Sydney Morning Herald reported correspondence released under freedom of information suggested " the agreement between the government and the miners was drafted by BHP Billiton, although the government insists it was a ''collaborative effort''.

The Telegraph reported more than 180 incidents of drug theft were recorded at hospitals across NSW according to information released through the Government Information Public Access Act. 

The Mercury reported documents released under Tasmania's Right to Information Act "revealed more than 100 people died last year while on elective surgery wait lists"- but not the cause of death.

"Hundreds of internal emails obtained by The Courier-Mail after the release of the interim report on the Queensland floods show that officials paid scant attention to Wivenoe dam levels until "weather events" forced their hand - by which time it was too late.The documents, obtained under Right To Information laws, paint a picture of ill-preparedness in government before the events and growing panic as the crisis unfolded."

The Courier Mail also obtained some details of fraud and misconduct investigations by Queensland Police.

Often go unreported of course, but:
The Herald Sun  reported the Civil Aviation Safety Authority refused to release a full list of its safety concerns with Tiger Airways, saying the commercial interests of the airline outweigh public interest in issues it has raised with the airline. CASA's Kate Allen acknowledged the 30-page notice alleged that "on a number of occasions" Tiger had failed to comply with the Civil Aviation Act, the Civil Aviation Regulations and the Civil Aviation Orders in breach of its Air Operator's Certificate. (The public interest considerations-if reported accurately-have a certain circularity.)
"I consider that the allegations made in the SCN (show cause notice) and the responses by Tiger concerning them would, or at least could reasonably be expected to, cause damage to Tiger Airways' reputation - which may lead to damage to its business, commercial and financial interests," she said. "On balance I also consider it contrary to the public interest to provide access to the documents as the documents contain information that is critical of Tiger Airways or about its business affairs." She added that "no formal findings or conclusions about alleged contraventions or operational practices is included in the documents".
The Australian  was refused access under Freedom of Information laws to various audit reports of the ACC's Australian Criminal Intelligence Database, which is used in the Fusion Centre and linked to other agencies through the Australian Law Enforcement Intelligence Net. The Australian sought a full demographic breakdown of the individuals listed on ACID  but was denied. It has been unable to obtain any further details of their country or state of origin.

Queensland Health refused the ABC access to documents about the controversial decision to shut down tuberculosis clinics in the Torres Strait to Papua New Guinea (PNG) nationals on grounds that the ABC claimed were self-contradictory. 

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