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The winery that dare not speak its name?

By johnboy - 24 May 2009 12

[First filed: May 22, 2009 @ 08:34]

It’s been a top week for the Liberals in terms of actually holding the Stanhope government to account. They seem to be really getting the hang of the new Freedom Of Information regime. It’ll be interesting to see what reasons the Government can come up with to reign it in. I’m tipping some sort of cost blowout.

In the latest case Jeremy Hanson is crying foul over the strange expurgation of an email he had released under FOI.

    The Minister had originally suggested that there were no plans to build a winery, cellar door and Bed and Breakfast on the site next to the Bush Healing Farm based on searches of Development Applications.

    However, the Opposition has uncovered a document that shows the government was aware of these plans as early as July 2008, when the sale was completed in August of 2008. Worse, the document was censored by the government to try to avoid this embarrassing fact becoming public.

    Under FOI, the government released a document dated 9 July 2008 and addressed to the Chief Minister. The identifying details of the person sending the document were properly blacked out. However, material details about the nature of the business were also censored.

    The Opposition has now uncovered the uncensored version of this document and discovered that the words ‘vineyard’ and ‘cellar door sales and a Bed and Breakfast establishment’ were blacked out. The only rational explanation to remove these words was to cover up the government’s embarrassment and there is no legitimate excuse for their removal.

Both documents are in a pdf file if you want to take a look for yourselves. Earlier thoughts on the “Bush Healing Farm” were covered back in March.

Someone with acute political sensitivities would appear to have been entrusted with the black texta.

What’s Your opinion?


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12 Responses to
The winery that dare not speak its name?
sepi 8:44 pm 23 May 09

Protecting the privacy of the letter writer explains blacking out para 1, and the signature, but I don’t see why references to a possible cellar door and wine tastings are black out?

Cobrico 10:13 am 23 May 09

Someone with acute political sensitivities would appear to have been entrusted with the black texta.

Wrong. FoI decisions are made by a public servant, acting as a delegate of the Department Secretary, and they cannot be directed one way or the other on how to make that decision. However they are required to make decisions according to the guidelines put in place by the Parliament/Assembly. One of those guidelines is to consider the privacy of third parties who may be mentioned in correspondence, because it is an offence to breach the Privacy Act. It is therefore a judgement call by the officer to decide each FoI request according to the guidelines.

What is shown is not a conspiracy, but an officer making a decision according to his/her interpretation of the guidelines. Dozens of similar decisions are made each day in Commonwealth, States and Territories – and most would have blacked out the parts in the letter as shown above, not because we are political but because we are required to follow guidelines provided by a Parliament / Assembly.

This is a decision made under administrative law, not by a political spinmeister.

If the FoI guidelines need correcting, then it is up to the politicians to amend them.
Indeed, interested parties may wish to take this opportunity to review the guidelines themselves, and see whether they agree or not.

mooo_cow 1:40 pm 22 May 09

Bring on more FOI’s.

Skidbladnir 1:32 pm 22 May 09

Timeline:
2000: Mystery Couple buys property near Tharwa, with intention to ‘at some point’ make a vine-planted loctaion, alleged to be a winery by the Canberra Liberals.

January 18 2003, property and\or surrounding trees razed to the ground and turned to ash by cataclysmic bushfire. Most plans for Tharwa and surrounds are from this date put on hold to allow people to deal with the fact that luck and not human intervention, saved their homes and their families from burning to death in these homes.

2004: ACT Government and United Ngunnawal Elders Council start feasibility study of ACT Bush Healing Farm facility.
http://www.treasury.act.gov.au/budget/budget_2004/_srcfiles/press/14_press.pdf (Page 2)

2005: Tharwa bridge is closed, Tharwa community begins to atrophy through lack of traffic, and being far really out of the way.

Unspecified 2006: LDA puts on-hold a 66ha rural property on William Hovell Drive (Hawker) at Jon Stanhope’s request so it could be considered for use as a Bush Farm Healing facility.

June 6, 2006: ACT Government announces in 06-07 budge Tharwa school to close at end of 2006.

October 2006: ACT Director of Multicultural, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Mr Nic Manikis, indicates in writing that the Hawker site is unsuitable.
Email exchanged within ACTPLA at the time indicate “”Nic Manikis had put up a proposal not supporting the site for a health facility but the Chief Minister is determined to proceed.””

Unspecified 2006: Site at Hawker is withdrawn from sale so it can remain available for the Bush Healing Farm Project.

November 2007:, combined ACT and Australian Governments commit funding of 11.8 million to acquire a property and build a Bush Farm Healing facility, still intended for Hawker apparently, as there had been no public announcement of change of plans.

June 2008: Australian Government chips in $1 million for the facility.

9 July, 2008:
Mystery Couple send an email to the Chief Minister, earlier indicated from within ACTPLA to be the man who was determined for this project to go ahead.
Clinton Cashen who (according to the ACT Public Service Gazette), had earlier worked for ACTPLA, within the Development Assessment Section, Development Services Branch at the time concerns were raised about the original Hawker site, redirects the email to the Health or Community Services Portfolio.

March 3, 2009:
“A spokeswoman for Mr Stanhope [says that] the Hawker block, known as Kama, had been assessed and deemed unsuitable.”
“ACT Health Minister Katy Gallagher announces the Government had paid $1.4 million for a rural property called Miowera on Paddy’s River Road for the 16-bed facility, which is the first of its kind for the ACT.”
Facility is now to be located for Tharwa since this rural property has already been purchased by the ACT Government.
http://www.chiefminister.act.gov.au/media.php?v=7774

At this tie, Tharwa residents indicate a continuing lack of consultation about the use of the location.

(Most of this comes from http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/drug-rehab-centre-earmarked-for-tharwa/1449416.aspx?storypage=0 and just Googling)

RandomGit 1:32 pm 22 May 09

I’d rather see opposition counteracting policies more than characters.

caf 12:21 pm 22 May 09

It’s a bit rich to consider a letter saying “we’d totally like to do this one day” as being plans sufficient to warrant the Government changing direction. However it’s clear that those parts were redacted just to save embarrassment, which is not on.

As usual, the coverup is worse than the crime.

Gobbo 11:46 am 22 May 09

What was the response that Mrs Regards received from the CM?

Woody Mann-Caruso 10:36 am 22 May 09

Ah, I get it now. My bad.

housebound 10:29 am 22 May 09

The point of this is the truth about the existence (or otherwise) of plans for building an alcohol-related facility right next door to a Bush Healing Farm.

The delay so far in fulfiling plans is a side issue.

Woody Mann-Caruso 10:19 am 22 May 09

Or could it be because *gasp* these facts have the character of information that’s commercial-in-confidence? The redacted information is also entirely irrelevant to the point of the correspondence, which is still completely clear – the author doesn’t want this development to go ahead because it will affect their private and professional interests. If anything, there should have been more redaction – the bit about ‘vines’ makes hiding the other bits redundant.

(And dear vine planters – you’ve had 8 years. Sh.t or get off the pot. We can’t put the big wide world on hold because one day you were totally gonna do stuff.)

sepi 9:41 am 22 May 09

Jeremy Hanson seems to be doing really well at keeping the govt answerable.

the greens on the other hand seem to keep getting fobbed off – eg:

– library back to inner south = tiny shopfront at Kingston with no parking.

– buses every 15 minutes = bringing back the 333 to go every 15 mins.

Thumper 8:59 am 22 May 09

Am I imagining things?

Is the opposition actually doing what it is supposed to be doing?

Finally?

That would be a good thing for canberra as they’ve been MIA for years now.

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