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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Scope for FOI disclosures to better inform public debate

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is under the freedom of information hammer  so resources are no doubt stretched. But the department could better inform debate and do itself a favour by making documents released more readily and widely available.

The Australian today picks up the Institute of Public Affairs analysis of a report released in response to one of those hundreds of FOI applications. The analysis may or may not be accurate. It's not clear whether the report is yet listed but none of those currently on the Disclosure Log are accessible online. This statement  therefore is cold comfort:
A link is provided if the information can be downloaded from this website or another website.

You could of course follow up by contacting the department:
Information that is not available on a website may be obtained by writing to: FOI Coordinator Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency GPO Box 854 Canberra ACT 2601 Email:

In the meantime what the Institute says about the report stands, without others having the opportunity to make of it what they will.(Update: one day on one of those involved with the research writes that the Institute misrepresents the report and that "Australians have a right to rigorous, evidence-based research and accurate reporting on this crucial issue.." Amen to that.)

And a good point in an article in Delimiter this week picking up on a report in The Age on NBN Co that commenced:
“PREVIOUSLY secret documents show the federal government was warned that the national broadband network would expose taxpayers to ”considerable financial risks”, only weeks after the ambitious high-speed internet plan was unveiled.”

Delimiter commented:
Wow. Heady stuff, and a ripping news yarn. Many of the issues raised — especially the need to protect the NBN from market competition and the reversal of successive governments’ long-held policy on bolstering infrastructure-based competition in the telco sector — are valid concerns which I and many other commentators share. But there’s just one problem. The documents in question which are being reported in this article were handed by Treasury to the Federal Government more than two years ago — in mid-2009, months after the current NBN policy was announced....

In short, gentle reader, do not be fooled. The fact that a “journalist” files a “freedom of information request” and obtains “previously secret documents”, does not make those documents newsworthy or an important injection of fresh information into the current national debate. ....
Plenty of other examples come to mind when the dates on FOI documents that lead to a media splash don't rate a mention, suggesting quite a few missed that part of Journalism 101.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:16 pm

    THE defence by the Climate Institute's John Connor ("Many ways to calculate China's carbon price", Commentary, 17/8) of the government-funded "Putting a Price Tag on Pollution" report doesn't hold water.

    The IPA does not dispute that China is making modest efforts to curb its emissions growth and that there are different ways of calculating the implicit price of cutting emissions. What matters is whether the calculations of the cost of doing so are comparable.

    FOI documents (available at of Department of Climate Change feedback during the editing process of the report question why inconsistent methodologies were used to compare the carbon prices for Australia and China.

    The inconsistency justified the authors including in the final report a note in the table for Australia's implicit carbon price that a different methodology was used for the NSW Greenhouse Gas scheme calculations. They did so for a reason. It allowed them to justify using a higher Chinese carbon price of $8.08 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, than if they had used the same methodology, which would have delivered a price of $1.78 compared to Australia's $2.34.

    Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.

    End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

    One calculation says China is ahead of Australia, the other says the reverse and changes whether Climate Change Minister Greg Combet could use the report's conclusions as part of its political narrative to justify the introduction of a carbon tax. It's now clear that there are questions about the report's conclusions. They were first raised by the government, not the IPA. And with these concerns should come questions about when Combet learned of them, and if not, why not?

    Tim Wilson, director, Climate Change Policy, Institute of Public Affairs

    Here is Tim Wilson's response to the above..

    Nice blog;)