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Friday, January 18, 2008

Cult members and former PM's cosy correspondence revealed

Anyone's entitled to write to the Prime Minister or any other minister, and to enjoy some degree of confidentiality regarding sensitive personal or commercial information.

But those who seek to influence government decision making shouldn't have the same expectation.

So now that the federal election is ancient history, The Age has been given access to correspondence between the Exclusive Brethren and the former Prime Minister, and has posted the six letters on the web.

Deleting names and addresses of the correspondents might be justified where they were acting in a personal capacity, but it's a bit rich if, as seems the case, they were in touch with the former Prime Minister in their capacity as church representatives. We should be entitled to know as a matter of routine who is out there pushing or promoting ideas with government.

Then there is the question about why all this took 14 months from the Freedom of Information request until access was granted.

Here is an interesting development in the UK - thanks to Alex Hawkes of Accountancy Age - as a matter of routine information about meetings between Treasury ministers and interest groups is published on the web. Not much detail and some exclusions, but it's a step in the right direction. In the US, a federal judge recently ordered release of White House visitor lists, but an appeal is imminent.

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