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Friday, September 02, 2011

Victoria in the news

Three stories running today:
The Ombudsman critical of Victorian Police for jumping to politically convenient Freedom of Information exemptions in dealing with a Michael McKinnon application in the lead in to last year's election.

Legitimate criticism of the Baillieu government over the failure to date to deliver on Freedom of Information reform commitments, but the criticism is off the mark in seeing something wrong with requests for the Premier's documents being handled by his office. It would be a different matter if requests for departmental documents were handled in this way.

Vice President Judge Hampel in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decided the evidence did not support a decision that draft media plans of the previous government were documents that had nothing to do with the affairs of a government agency, finding they were minister's documents for the purposes of the act. A global decision under s 25 that all the documents appeared to be exempt and that it was impractical to edit exempt matter out was also not supported by the evidence. She remitted the matter to the Office of the Premier for a decision to be made on the status of each document. The applicant at the time the application was made was in opposition and is now a minister. And the Office of the Premier is a different office as a result of an election in the meantime. As The Age reports the documents may have gone out the door following the election raising some interesting issues concerning what happens now. From an FOI perspective it's straightforward- are the documents held by the Office of the Premier, if not and they are held elsewhere, does the Office have a right of access? If neither, the documents aren't held and access could be refused on that basis.  But life is rarely that simple. (Update: Davis and the Office of the Premier [2011] VCAT 1629)

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