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Students seek review into ANU Fossil Fuel investments

By Barcham 2 April 2013 1

Last month students were begging ANU to follow through on its promise to sell its shares in Metagasco.

This month they want the ANU to be more transparent in letting the public know what is going on.

Following ANU’s decision to refuse public access to 54 documents about ANU’s investments in coal, oil and gas—including ANU’s ill-fated investment in Metgasco—the student requesting the documents is now seeking comprehensive review.

In a letter requesting review under the Freedom of Information Act, the student challenges ANU’s claim there is ‘no public interest in release’ in release of most of the requested documents. The letter raises four other points of law under which ANU may need to release the documents. (These concerns are listed below.)

The request for review follows differences at the recent ANU Council meeting between Chancellor Gareth Evans and Vice Chancellor Ian Young about ANU’s approach to Freedom of Information about its investments.

Vice Chancellor young said “the policy [of the ANU FOI office] is to push back against all requests as hard as possible” and insisted the FOI office should process the request accordingly. But Chancellor Gareth Evans, who worked on FOI reform when in cabinet, asked VC Young to review the matter, noting students had brought the matter to the highest ANU decision-making body.

Their summary of concerns:

1) that ANU failed to redact relevant information from the documents in order to make their release reasonable, as required by s22 of the Act;
2) that documents ANU assessed as conditionally exempt, because they contain ‘deliberative matter’, may contain matter that is not deliberative as determined by s47C of the Act, including as covered by specific exemptions;
3) whether ANU must publish these documents because they contain ‘operational information’ under s8 of the Act;
4) that ANU assessed exemption of most documents by finding “no public interest in release” rather than that release is contrary to the public interest as required by s11A(5) of the Act;
5) that there are many substantial public interest factors favouring in the release of these documents, including as defined by ANU’s own guidelines for factors favouring disclosure.

Is it ANU’s call to determine what is or is not of interest to the public? Does the student body have the right to demand these documents? What do you think Rioters?

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Students seek review into ANU Fossil Fuel investments
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NoAddedMSG 1:56 pm 02 Apr 13

[i] Vice Chancellor young said “the policy [of the ANU FOI office] is to push back against all requests as hard as possible” and insisted the FOI office should process the request accordingly. [/i]

This has not been my experience when dealing with the FOI Office…. when I dealt with them (as someone whose emails had been FOI’d) it was full cooperation without question all the way, even though the FOI was something which could easily have been described as vexatious. And where people had to be contacted because their names appeared in documents to be released, they made a real and genuine effort to contact the people, including the ones who had dropped off the grid entirely.

Anyhoo, in terms of the issue in regards to investments: My understanding is that the money ANU has invested is the chunk of money it was given when it agreed to take on the Commonwealth Superannuation liability for those employees who were around prior to UniSuper. It’s essentially a superannuation investment fund, so I think the people who are most affected by this – the superannuation recipients – should be the ones whose voices are given primacy.

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