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Mark Cormack gets snippy about the black texta

By johnboy - 9 June 2009 27

The ABC reports that the ACT Health chief executive Mark Cormack has spat the dummy over the Liberals’ Jeremy Hanson’s suggestion towards the end of May, that FOI requests might be receiving politically sensitive handling.

    Mr Cormack has pointed to a press release issued by Liberal MLA Jeremy Hanson last month, which says the Government blacked out the words “cellar door” and “vineyard” from documentation it gave the Opposition.

    “That is a matter that I must defend,” he said.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide what they believe.

What’s Your opinion?


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Mark Cormack gets snippy about the black texta
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PM 9:50 am 11 Jun 09

You don’t make FOI releases based on purpose or context – those considerations must be ignored. It could be for any purpose because, let’s face it, once released it can be for any purpose.

YapYapYap 3:20 am 11 Jun 09

PM, I don’t question your motives for one moment and I agree that greater rather then less disclosure is a positive thing. I’ve got no business barrow to push either, but I support the general idea of a rehab service on the site.

From what I’ve observed the leaseholders who wrote to the Government airing concerns about the establishment of the health facility did so because they beleived it would have in adverse impact on their future plans. I can’t agree with that view, but I can’t see that disclosing the specifics behind their plans, as opposed to the fact they had concerns over the proposal, is any sort of cover-up. We do know they’re not happy, and the FOI release doesn’t cover-up that fact.

Further, as the correspondence concerned in this issue was a private communication with the Chief Minister, it doesn’t seem at all reasonable to me that the Health Department ‘publish’ it for broarder consumption, in the response to Hansen’s FOI request. Leaving the exemption provisions in section 43 aside for a moment, the Health Department would’ve had an obligation to seek the leaseholders’ consent (as an effected third party) prior to release of the letter (in full).

And it isn’t about who the business is (as though the few people in that valley can’t work it out anyway) but that their business planning isn’t a matter of public interest until the law says it should be – ie when they want to move to the DA process. Perhaps, until that point, they’d prefer to keep their intentions to themselves. That seems very reasonable, and was my point about it not being ‘your’ (ie our) business, at least at this time. After all nothing has happened, or can, until they are required to let everyone else into their plans – via the DA process.

I don’t see the issue as a cover-up to protect the Government, but one of the right of these people to go about their business, unfetted. This applies equally to private individuals. I know I would be furious if a letter I’d written to a minister ended up being used a a political tool, to my possible disadvantage, because someone I’d pretty much never heard of (Hansen fits that bill) got hold of the letter via FOI.

Its worth remembering that the FOI requst was never about the development of a B&B/Winery, if it was I would agree with you, and would expect the response to have contained greater detail.

PM 2:05 am 11 Jun 09

I accept that I’ve been a tad snippy due to the cold today. The ACT Government claimed something. A document unearthed by the ACT Opposition suggests otherwise.

“This isn’t your business. What is your business is the decisions and actions of the Government – that’s what FOI is about. In this particular case, for this business’ thinking to be disclosed to Hansen, or you for that matter (or importantly to possible competitors), serves no public interest here but does potentially compromise their future interests. That is what section 43 is aimed at avoiding.”

Are you suggesting that this issue should not be discussed? I’d rather the law as passed by my parliamentary representatives, and interpreted by the courts, determine what my rights are. This particular affair is everyone’s business.

The company’s identity was largely protected. Get over that.

Certain views deserve discussion, even if it involves private finances. You can’t claim otherwise.

The FOI Act was in this instance seemingly used to protect the ACT Government – see http://the-riotact.com/?p=12172. That’s what this issue is all about.

YapYapYap 9:49 pm 10 Jun 09

This has nothing what so ever to do with commercial interests versus communtiy interests. Nor is it about a DA or the actions of this business. It’s about Government’s handling of the establishment of a health facility.

There are legal protections granted to the broarder community with respect to commerce impingeing on the rights of others – but a FOI application about documents concerning a drug and alcohol facility is not one of them, and nor should it be.

In this case the DA that would be a necesary precursor to the establishment of a B&B/Winery/Cellar door operation, involving appropriate notification and rights for public input/objection, is part of the planning process and you’d have every right to see all documents surrounding the DA, both through that process and via FOI (about the DA) should a DA ever eventuate.

However to suggest, as you do, that incidental private correspondence with the Government is anyone else’s business is nothing short of a gross violation of the rights of others. This isn’t your business. What is your business is the decisions and actions of the Government – that’s what FOI is about. In this particular case, for this business’ thinking to be disclosed to Hansen, or you for that matter (or importantly to possible competitors), serves no public interest here but does potentially compromise their future interests. That is what section 43 is aimed at avoiding.

These sort of FOIs are simply bottom trawling exercises, with a myriad of incidental documents being unearthed in the process, and to publish the private business of others in the way you suggest, is not freedom of information, its violating others’ rights.

PM 5:36 pm 10 Jun 09

YapYapYap said :

Section 43 goes to the point rasised by Hansen; the deletion of business information. It is not appropriate for Government to disclose infotmation provided to it in correspondence from an individual or business via an FOI applicatiojn from a third party. Put simply, FOI is about exposure of Governments’ actions, and not the private affairs of this business.

That you can’t see that establishes your credentials, as a loon.

Come off it. You can’t understand that my original point regarded the article claiming privacy as a reason for the exemptions.

Firstly, the developer’s identity, as you are plainly aware, was suppressed. No problem there.

Secondly, s. 43 is not about removing every last bit of information remotely concerning a business or its interests.

If the government was considering allowing this development, it’s in the public interest for the public to know the nature of the development. What do you think FOI is for? Do you reckon “I, BLANK, have plans to build a BLANK next to a BLANK for the purposes of BLANK,” is acceptable?

If so, that shows you’re a tool of this absurdly broad interpretation of protecting commercial interests over those of the community. I mean, if that’s acceptable, let’s just save a whole heap of time and money close up the FOI shop because such a release is useles. One should always start out with the intention to disclose, and then work back, not the other way around.

Sure – blank out dollar figures. Blank out names of people or details of research which could be worth something. But the nature of a business? That’s a joke. The Department should be condemned.

YapYapYap 5:22 pm 10 Jun 09

Section 43 goes to the point rasised by Hansen; the deletion of business information. It is not appropriate for Government to disclose infotmation provided to it in correspondence from an individual or business via an FOI applicatiojn from a third party. Put simply, FOI is about exposure of Governments’ actions, and not the private affairs of this business.

That you can’t see that establishes your credentials, as a loon.

PM 4:38 pm 10 Jun 09

… regarding Privacy, that is, at the very least. Debatable re s.43’s relevance in this case.

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