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The Burdens of Privelege

By Skidbladnir - 27 August 2009 7

When you get given a privelege, it then becomes a fight over keeping it.

Back in May, Jeremy Hanson released a statement to the media which used two specific phrases, which would appear to have cause offense within ACT Health, specifically the Office of its Chief Executive, Mark Cormack.

The phrases which so deeply offended, were “cover up” and “misuse of process” in the context of an attack on the Health Minister, Katy Gallagher, when talking about a Freedom of Information request through her Department.

Original Media Release by Jeremy Hanson here
Original FoI document it relates to
Resulting RiotACT coverage

This resulted in a sternly-worded letter from the Chief Executive of ACT Health, advising that the media release contained ‘information of concerning accuracy’, and had the potential for misinterpretations, given that the Minister played no part in the Freedom Of Information process. Mark Cormack saw this as an attack on his staff.

Jeremy was incensed, and referred the matter under Standing Order 276 to a Select Committee on Priveleges, to determine if:

a) Assembly Privelege was breached, or if contempt had been committed, through a senior Public Servant telling a non-Executive Assembly Member to check his facts before relasing a statement which could mislead the public; and

b) If the letter was a response appropriate to the ACT Public Service.

[Full Report of the Select Committee on Privileges 2009, choice parts selected below]

Finding No 1…The Committe considers that Mr Cormack’s letter did not breach priveleges. The Committee further does not consider that a contempt… has been committed” Pg ii.

Jeremy Hanson: 0, ACT Public Service: 1.

55. Mr Hanson firmly believes there is a case to answer over the handling of the freedom of information request that was the subject of his pres release… Mr Cormack took great offense to any suggestion that he and his Department had lacked independence or were susceptible to improper influence by the Minister.

“(Pg15)”57. …Mr Cormack felt there was a need to correct what were perceived to be significant errors in the press release.

“(pg15)”58. …if …the letter was appropriate, [the Committee] could have the effect of legitimising Mr Cormack’s position… if…the letter was not appropriate, [the Committee] could have the effect of legitimising the claims made by Mr Hanson… As it does not wish to take either of those courses of action, it makes the following finding.

Finding No 2 The Commitee makes no finding in relation to whether the letter… was an appropriate response in the circumstances…

Pg 16 As a result, the relationship between non-Executive Members of the Legislative Assembly is to be clarified by new guidelines.

ACT Public Service:0, Legislative Assembly: 1

It would seem that if you have issues with how your FOI is treated, clarify with the FOI staff at the Department who processed the FOI Request, rather than scream about how the the Minister is abusing the process.

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7 Responses to
The Burdens of Privelege
harley 1:27 pm 28 Aug 09

Actually – I was referring to your last sentence/opinion which I agree with wholeheartedly…

“It would seem that if you have issues with how your FOI is treated, clarify with the FOI staff at the Department who processed the FOI Request, rather than scream about how the the Minister is abusing the process.”

Skidbladnir 10:51 am 28 Aug 09

“The Committee makes the finding that the Committee makes no finding” really is what it says.

(I also hate the spellcheck custom dictionary on the computer I was using yesterday, why my autocorrect spelling doesn’t follow me across the network I don’t know…)
If any moderator wants to obliterate every instance of incorrect spelling, I’d be happy.

harley 10:00 am 28 Aug 09

It looked like a rant when the format was screwed into a single paragraph. It looks fine now.

The last paragraph says it all…

Skidbladnir 6:49 pm 27 Aug 09

Fair point re: spelling, apparently my spellcheck has a custom dictionary accepting both. (?)
But not everything on RA needs to be a rant, the site needs story content while Jb is off leading the high life of a media personality.

Thumper 6:34 pm 27 Aug 09

Whhoaaah skid! What happened there?

Skidbladnir 6:30 pm 27 Aug 09

Sweet merciful crap, what happened to the formatting?

Woody Mann-Caruso 5:43 pm 27 Aug 09

If you’re going to rant about it, you could at least learn to spell it.

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