Government secrecy needs to end

The State Opposition has accused the McGowan Government of treating the Freedom of Information Act with contempt, saying the Government is using delay tactics, obfuscation and flat out refusal to respond to Freedom of Information applications to avoid scrutiny and prevent the release of information to the public.

Shadow Minister for Government Accountability Tjorn Sibma said the Government was more interested in frustrating the Freedom of Information process, than adhering to the spirit of the Act to make Government more accountable to the public.

“The McGowan Government was elected on a platform of gold standard transparency, yet they have been anything but transparent,” Mr Sibma said.

“Too often, the Government is avoiding scrutiny by delaying the processing of FOI applications, creating reasons to avoid providing information and refusing to process applications in the required timeframe in order to have it deemed that the application is refused.”

Mr Sibma said the Government’s lack of commitment to open and transparent government was demonstrated not only by its disdain for the FOI Act, but also through preventing the release of information through claims of commercial-in-confidence and Cabinet-in-confidence.

“This is unacceptable behaviour not even meeting the basic standards of transparency and accountability and begs the question, ‘what is this Government trying to hide from the public?’,” Mr Sibma said.

“Let us not forget the enactment of Freedom of Information legislation was identified as a priority by the WA Inc Royal Commission, so it is disappointing the current Government is looking for excuses to avoid adherence to this legislation, rather than seeking to ensure it is adhering to it.”

Mr Sibma said examples of the Government seeking to prevent the Opposition accessing information included:

·         Refusing access to documents requested by and prepared for the former Government (former Transport Minister Dean Nalder has been refused access to a document he personally requested be prepared);

·         Changing the scope of a request without the concurrence of the applicant, in order to withhold information;

·         Claiming the lack of existence of any documentation, when it would defy logic that no such document existed (the Opposition sought documentation from the Department of Transport pertaining to the Forrestfield Airport Link tunnel borer machines stopping and was advised no documents existed);

“The McGowan Government has been in office for less than eighteen months but a trend of secrecy is already emerging,” Mr Sibma said.

“The Premier needs to reinforce to his Ministers the imperative of providing basic level accountability, and he should require them to read the WA Inc Royal Commission Report to remind them we do not want another sorry saga that occurred under a previous Labor Government to ever occur again.”