Saturday, December 27, 2014

Reflection on the government’s motivation in relation to hiding the facts (3)

The FOI Commissioner, Mr Timothy Pilgrim wrote in his decision:

“In the context of this IC review, I believe the disclosure of the information will assist to inform the community of how government operates. In particular, I believe it will assist the community in understanding that their correspondence or submissions to the Office of the Prime Minister may not always be brought to the personal attention of the Prime Minister.”

Why did the staff refuse to disclose that the Prime Minister did not read my letter personally?

I requested:

“Who decided not to inform [the Prime Minister] about the matter and what policies were applied, if [the Prime Minister] has not been informed,

“Who decided not to take any action and what the decision maker’s grounds were, if [the Prime Minister] has not done so”

If they told me the Prime Minister did not read my letter personally, they had to answer the question “who decided not to inform [the Prime Minister] about the matter and what policies were applied”.

As the exempted information might contain relevant information, I had to focus on the proceedings to release the exempt information. During the deliberately delayed review process, many years passed and both then Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have all quitted politics.

Apparently the staff played with the FOI review proceedings.

Particularly, in the original draft of the letter wrote by Senior Adviser Brendan MacDowell of the Legal Policy Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to me on 17 July 2009 exactly mentioned the guideline and my letter was not brought to the attention of the Prime Minister personally. The original paragraph was:

“Finally, I note that, as you have been advised previously, in addition to all of the other duties performed by the Prime Minister, it is not possible for him to handle and individually respond to the very large volume of correspondence received. Guidelines in place for dealing with correspondence provide for circumstances in which others, including departmental officers and the Prime Minister’s advisers, may respond to correspondence on behalf of the Prime Minister. It is my understanding that the matters raised in your various letters to the Prime Minister have not been brought to the attention of the Prime Minister personally.”

According to the instruction of Mathew Jose, Senior Adviser of the office of the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the above paragraph was replaced by the paragraph below: 
“If you do not specify documents you wish to access by 31 July 2009, we will assume you do not wish to proceed and we will treat the matter as finalised.”
  
In his draft of the letter to me Brendan MacDowell naturally assumed: “that the matter raised in your various letters to the Prime Minister have not been brought to the attention of the Prime Minister personally”. Mathew Jose did not want me to know that. He wrote in the released document 1: “I’m comfortable with the language in the paragraph, except the last sentence”. So Brendan MacDowell replied: “I’ll delete the whole paragraph” as he understood Mathew Jose’s worry was: “it’s unlikely he will now take the point when he appears not to have in the past”.
           
Apparently, they worried that if they told me that the matter I rose was not brought to the attention of the Prime Minister personally, I would send another letter or try to find another way letting the Prime Minister read the letter. So they played a trick with me.

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