Friday, March 10, 2017

Right to Information: Greens leader accuses Government of meddling in RTI requests

ABC Online‎‎‎: Australia: Friday, March 10, 2017.
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor has used Parliament to accuse the Government of meddling in Right to Information (RTI) releases, after she received a response to one longstanding request late on the last sitting day of Parliament.
The Greens RTI request, seeking details about how much out-of-home care provider Safe Pathways was paid by the State Government, was returned on Tuesday, three months after the party lodged it.
Last week, Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma was forced to correct the record about her knowledge of a delayed RTI from the ABC, also relating to Safe Pathways.
Ms O'Connor, under parliamentary privilege, accused the department of releasing only tender documents and ensuring anything with new information was withheld.
"We have been provided with no information of any relevance relating to the financials and concerns of Safe Pathways," Ms O'Connor said.
"Its clear to any rational person reading these documents that the intent was not to release information.
"This is one of the most disgraceful Right to Information episodes that I have ever been part of."
Ms O'Connor said she would appeal the return of her request.
Ms Petrusma said RTI requests are addressed at arm's length by a specific officer.
"Last week, Ms O'Connor was falsely claiming the Minister is interfering; this week she wants her to interfere," she said.
Labor continues to hammer Petrusma
As the Lower House of Parliament was about to adjourn for the week, Labor leader Bryan Green stood up for a final attack on the Ms Petrusma.
It followed three days of Labor questioning the Minister about her knowledge of complaints against an out-of-home care provider, Key Assets.
Earlier this week, Ms Petrusma told Parliament her office was first made aware of the allegations on January 25 and an investigation had begun at that time.
Mr Green referred to an interview Key Assets CEO Caroline Brown gave to commercial radio on Thursday morning, where she was asked about the specifics of the department's investigation.
"We've been contacted by the Department today to say that the first stage of their investigation is a fact check, and they will be forwarding through a list of questions for us to respond to in the next 24 hours," Ms Brown said.
"We've been accused all week of making false allegations by this Minister," Mr Green told Parliament.
"She must go. The Premier must sack her."
In response, Ms Petrusma said: "Mr Green's latest confected claims are pathetic."
She said a complaint received on January 25 was investigated by the department, as per normal processes.
An email received by her office very early on Saturday outlined similar and further concerns to those of January 25.
"This has been forwarded to the Department for action and is the subject of further investigation," she said.