Victory for transparency

Today’s judgment from the Full Court of the Federal Court that there are no grounds for George Brandis to continue to block my simple request for parts of his ministerial diary is a victory for transparency, accountability and common sense.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

VICTORY FOR TRANSPARENCY

 

Today’s judgment from the Full Court of the Federal Court that there are no grounds for George Brandis to continue to block my simple request for parts of his ministerial diary is a victory for transparency, accountability and common sense.

This two-year battle is not something I ever sought. When the simple request was made in 2014 for a print-out of eight months of Senator Brandis’s diary in a weekly format, I never would have dreamed the Attorney-General would refuse, and take that refusal as far as he has.

It has never been clear why Senator Brandis refused to process my request. The excuse that it would be too burdensome to process was thrown out by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal last year. Senator Brandis’s absurd argument made on ABC radio this morning that he has pursued the case in order to clarify an important principle in the FOI Act is nonsense. This was never an argument of principle. It was about Senator Brandis’s absurd claim that processing this request would substantially interfere with his functions as Attorney-General.

What has Senator Brandis got to hide, that it was worth spending as much as $40,000 in taxpayer money in this appeals process to protect? His assertion that he has no idea what this appeals process has cost does not hold water – he is the man in charge of the government’s legal system. If he has not stopped to think how much this episode would cost the taxpayer, it shows just how thoughtless he has been.

Senator Brandis has spent the past few days portraying himself as a champion of accountability and transparency. The truth is, even as the minister in charge of our Freedom of Information laws, he has spent the past two years fighting for secrecy when it comes to how he conducts his days in office. It is entirely hypocritical.

Let today’s judgment be the end of Senator Brandis’s absurd and expensive stonewalling. I call on Senator Brandis to definitively rule out taking his appeal to the High Court and wasting further thousands of dollars in taxpayer money. If he does not, it is truly a mark of how out of touch he is with reality and the responsibilities of his position.

As Attorney-General, the highest law officer in the land, he should respect the decision now made in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Full Court of the Federal Court in this matter, and begin processing my request immediately.

TUESDAY, 6 SEPTEMBER 2016