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Monday, August 15, 2011

McKinnon wins another one

Michael McKinnon of the Seven Network has chalked up another good Freedom of Information win, providing the basis for widespread media reports over the last week following disclosure of a consultant's report completed for the Rudd government early in 2010 that concluded spending on indigenous programs of about $3.5 billion annually, maintained over many years ''has yielded dismally poor returns to date. '' The document was released following an Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruling against the Department of Finance and Deregulation, overturning the department's decision that the report (and two others that have received little publicity to date, the Strategic Review of Job Capacity Assessments Program and the Strategic Review of Future Directions for Australian Government Service Delivery) were  exempt as cabinet documents and or deliberative documents. Some media reports describe the decision as a landmark, opening the way for greater access to information considered in cabinet. Its a good and welcome decision but it remains to be seen if the gates open at least a smidgen as a result.The cabinet document exemption claim failed because the Tribunal decided there was insufficient evidence that the documents had been prepared for submission to cabinet, something sure to be corrected from now on. (More about the decision in a separate post.)

The reports released to McKinnon have been published on the Department of Finance Disclosure Log

After the 18 month battle, McKinnon may not have been amused that the minister responsible for indigenous affairs Jenny Macklin says she wasn't part of all this, but is pleased the report is now in the public arena. A brave face after the event maybe. The taxpayer might be even less amused at the cost to date, with the Tribunal still to consider an application by McKinnon for costs, although the criteria for an ex gratia payment from the Attorney General in these circumstances puts the degree of difficulty in the eye of the needle class.

From ABC AM:
SABRA LANE: You said the Government asked for this strategic review but it did not want this information released publicly. Why did you fight a long legal campaign with Channel Seven to stop this information from being released?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, that wasn't actually me. I don't own this report. This was a report done by the Department of Finance and as I understand it, that had more to do with the way in which the Government implementing its freedom of information rules.

But the issue for me is, this was a very important review. We asked for it to be done. We want to make sure that the money that we are spending on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to close the gap, which is so important to all Australians, is in fact done.

SABRA LANE: But still you say it is an important report, you are part of the Government, why didn't you insist on this being made public?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I am now; I am pleased that we have it in the public arena that it is clear to the Australian people that we have an enormous amount to do. The problems we face that are demonstrated in this review did not just emerge in the last couple of years. They came about through serious problems in governments of all political persuasions over a long period of time and the job now is to address those problems.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:13 pm

    Dear Ms Macklin,

    You must take the public for fools. Stop the double-speak. You simply should have released the report when requested.


    Your constituents.