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.
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
“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.