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!

1 comment:

Dom said...

Firstly Pete, I agree with you in your opening commentary. Although I'm not so sure about how you support it.

You claimed that Peter Garret "failed in his attempt to read....reports". How do you know what Peter Garret is reading, intending or attempting to read? And given the current climate, ie: the goddamn election campaign, I can entirely understand why Peter Garret would say nothing about a great many environmental issues - at this point in time. Particularly since although he has only the most pious intentions, he tends to say the wrong thing in the wrong context at the wrong time.

Imagine you are Kevin Rudd for the moment. There, you're fumbling to find a muzzle already. It is wise to be prudent for the time being. I'm certain that we will here more of these reports.

I feel sorry for Peter Garret. We know that there is no fucking way that he would support a new old growth wood pulp mill in Tasmania in an isolated context. But he has chosen to play the game of Politics in order to achieve the greatest overall good for the environment, and that is exactly what he is doing. I'm certain that to have publicly supported the pulp mill eats away at him. But we need only look as far back as the last Latham led election campaign and what his opinion on the forests of Tasmania cost Labor in vote volume. And if Labor fall short on election day because of the fact that they wore their hearts on their sleeves during the campaign, it is cart blanc as far as the government is concerned with regard to the careless gurdianship of our natural resources.

OK so then, you open another paragraph with "In an incredible decision..." To my mind it reads purely as a comment and not as a decision at all. And so what if the documents were sought with the intention of assisting the political campaign of the impending Federal election? IT'S A FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN!!! If you can catch the opposition out, then why not? That's what they do. No matter which party!

With regard to the coalition orchestrating the denial of public access to crucial information (particularly during the current election campaign) relating to the government's planned changes to the IR laws, I think it is a farce. A mockery of the FOI Act. So much for the transparent style of government Howard vocally championed in the early days of his disgraceful time as PM.

I think that the feeling that Howard has cast over this nation during the last 11 or so years has appealed to the lower, meaner, less charitable aspects of being within each Australian.

I bristle with joy at the thought that these are the final minutes that this despicable little man can call himself the political leader of this country.