A new report by Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) has confirmed that Victorians continue to be misled and kept in the dark by the Andrews Labor Government, according to a medial release by the state Opposition.
The report has found that the Andrews Labor Government has continues to actively interfere with the Freedom of Information process – keeping vital information about the actions of government away from the public, it says.
The report outlines lengthy delays in processing Freedom of Information requests, particularly at the Department of Transport, and cites particular issues at the “Ministerial noting” stage whereby a Minister is provided a copy of the request and documents to be released in order to take note and make comments.
OVIC found that “The most significant contributor to delay in FOI decision making is its ministerial and executive briefing and noting processes. FOI decision makers at DOT currently allow for time for the relevant minister and senior executives to ‘note’ or comment on topical FOI requests before a decision will be made by the agency. On some occasions, these processes have taken a total of more than 200 days, causing unacceptable delay for applicants.”
“This report highlights just how dishonest the Andrews’ Labor government really is. For FOI requests to be sent to the Minister’s office before the decision is made shows that the Minister dictates what information will be released and when”, Shadow Minister for Public Sector Integrity, Kim Wells said.
OVIC also reviewed a small sample of requests and found that in one case, the noting period stretched for an incredible 245 days.
Alarmingly the Department of Transport told OVIC that “it would not finalise a topical FOI request or release documents until the conclusion of the ministerial noting process. Until a minister had noted the relevant briefing document, the FOI decision would not be made.”
In other words, requests were held up with the Minister’s office for indefinite periods and with no ability for applicants to expedite this process.
It was further noted that Professional Standard 8.1 states that “an FOI Officer must make their decision on an FOI request independently and that they cannot be directed to decide in a particular manner… There is no provision in the FOI Act for the time for an agency to finalise an FOI decision to be paused or extended for consultation with, or noting by, a minister or other stakeholder.”
This flies in the face of what now Labor Minister Martin Pakula said in 2014 where he stated:
“Labor will end this secret state and open our doors to the public, because we all deserve to know the details that affect our lives.”
“Under Labor’s changes, no future government will ever be able to keep a crisis secret. No more hiding, no more excuses.”
Yet despite this, says the state Opposition Labor deliberately obstruct the Freedom of Information process with endless delays and excuses for not delivering requested information.
“For the Minister’s office to block information being released for over 7 months is disgraceful.
“Daniel Andrews is guilty of keeping Victorians in the dark and has no plan to come clean on his massive waste and mismanagement” Mr Wells added.
With waste and mismanagement costing billions and growing by the date, no wonder Labor are trying to hide the truth from Victorians, says the Opposition.