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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is the longest running FOI case still running?

Michael West began his Business Day column in The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday as follows, leaving me nodding at the first sentence and scratching the head at the rest:
The Murdoch press had one of its vintage hissy fits this week over the plan to establish a government media regulator, and it was spot on. Let anyone who is tempted to champion the cause of another government agency be reminded of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, a bureaucracy supposedly established to enhance freedom of information. As far as we are aware, the information office is yet to even pass comment on the nation's longest-running information battle, the freedom-of-information request from Will Matthews, which celebrates its 10th anniversary without a resolution this year.
Niklas Bildhauer Wikimedia Commons
But a dig into the search engine reminded that I had written about the substantive decision in the Matthews case in May 2010 when it was decided in the AAT a Forgie epic of 486 paragraphs and 402 footnotes. The Applicant in 2003 had sought access to ASIC’s investigation into Otter Gold Limited, Allstate Explorations NL and Beaconsfield Gold NL. ASIC held 35,000 pages of relevant documents.

The decision affirmed most of ASIC's decision but varied parts and left unresolved a charges issue that came back before Deputy President Forgie in January 2012 
after years of back and forward on that issue.  

The Deputy President's decision included the observation that it was the end of the line as far as AAT review rights were concerned. Mr Matthews had in effect pressed the wrong button in all the review and remission requests. Deputy President Forgie said Mathews had "made it clear that he knew his rights when he took some of the steps provided for the review of its decision. He did not choose to take the final step but chose instead to pay the deposit and require ASIC to undertake its task of making a decision. That it has done and it is now too late to permit him to seek review of the charge decision in this Tribunal." [102]

Maybe it has since landed in the lap of the Australian Information Commissioner, who will certainly let pass West's urging to pass comment if it is in the complaints or review basket.

The OAIC statistics for the December 2012 quarter list the age of the oldest FOI complaint at 380 days, and the oldest review application at 707 days.

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