Monday, November 19, 2007

Freedom from information, or You Can't Handle The Truth!

Two decisions recently by public officials in charge of "Freedom of Information" show just how little they believe the public can be trusted to think and make up their own mind about things.

Rather than present the facts, that is, the hard, cold evidence, these officials know better, and have decided these things are better kept secret.

Firstly, Peter Garret failed in his attempt to read publicly funded scientific reports about the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.

In an incredible decision, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority head, Fiona MacDonald said “In my view, given the current political context in which this request was made, it appears likely the documents have been sought by the applicant to assist with his political campaign in the lead-up to the impending federal election.”

This can only be a political decision.

If granting the FOI request would help Labor, then withholding the request must help the Coalition.

The state of the Barrier Reef, and the effects of Climate Change on it are a concern for many Australians, many of whom helped pay for the report. They can make up their own mind about how much import to put on this, but not if the facts are denied them.

And now, today, in another blatantly political decision, the deputy president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Stephanie Forgie has denied access to information about what the federal government planned to do with the IR changes formerly known as Workchoices.

The right time for this information to be in the public domain is before the election, when the public can weigh it up, make a decision and act upon it, as they see fit. IR policy is an enormous part of the election, and the public have a good and proper right to be informed about these policies.

The Coalition have every right to be questioned on what they considered doing, and every right to put their point of view. They do not have the right to hide from the public information on public policy paid for by the public.

In both of these cases, the documents definitely exist, however, the gatekeepers of this publicly funded information don't think the public can be trusted with to understand them properly.

The theory in both of these cases seems to be that the voters might come to the wrong conclusion.

And we can't have that!