Monday, July 16, 2012

Gillard Government Caught Blatantly Violating own Law

If this article about the National Security Inquiry is anything to go by, the government has been caught breaking their own law, instituted by them to counteract abuses of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 1982, as perpetrated by the earlier Howard government.

The subject is secret discussions into removing Australians' rights, in favour of Australia's security apparatuses, most notably ASIO and ASIS, and the issue is the reason cited for redacting more than 90% of documentation about the discussions, which were requested under the FOI Act.

According to the linked article, the reason cited by the Attorney-General's office for the black-marker-happy censorship is that releasing the information would cause "confusion or premature, unnecessary debate".

Now, let's jump to s11B(4)(d) of the FOI Act:
The following factors, inter alia, must not be taken into account in deciding whether access to the document would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest:
(d) access to the document could result in confusion or unnecessary debate.
So, keep in mind that this legislation was passed because when an earlier government relied on this reason, and the other reasons in s11B, to hide information from the public, the Labor party vehemently opposed such an abuse of power. Now that it is expressly illegal, they continue to rely on what they, themselves, outlawed.

That's a bloody outrage, that is!
This is the time to contact your MPs and demand they adhere to the rule of law.
They're in the 21st century, so you can email them. Protest from your couch while watching MasterChef if you want, but just do it.

Do it!
Do it now!

I screwed the analysis a bit. The article in question is from June 2010, but of the 90+ amendments to the FOI Act, the one that explicitly outlawed the excuse of confusing the public or starting premature debate came directly after this redaction.

So, in summary, the government thought their own behaviour was so bad they outlawed it, but never released the information they thought was improperly withheld.

They don't exactly come out smelling like roses.

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