Shadow Health Minister Rob Lucas today described as ‘bizarre’ a claim by Premier Weatherill’s Labor Party that documents shouldn’t be released by the Electoral Commission of SA (ECSA) under Freedom of Information because they would reveal their ‘trade secrets’.
Equally as concerning is the decision by the ECSA to refuse the release of these documents because they agreed with the Labor view they would reveal their ‘trade secrets’.
For more than six months now, the State Liberals have been pursuing under FOI the final decisions made by the ECSA during the 2010 election campaign of Labor complaints made against the State Liberals under the Electoral Act.
The ECSA rejected the application, after consulting the Labor Party, on the following grounds:
“The documents refer to matters which are considered trade secrets. I consider that political parties conduct business affairs, and specifically their business is to campaign to win elections. The disclosure of the documents would constitute the disclosure of trade secrets which Sch1 CI 7 (1)(a) of the FOI Act exempts.
“The methods used by political parties in campaigning can be considered highly valuable within the political industry. Other competitors within the industry would find commercial value in the documents.
“The disclosure of the documents could reasonably be expected to diminish the commercial value of the information.
“Furthermore, the disclosure of these documents is likely to only be in the interest of those in the industry, and in particular to the relevant third party’s competitors. I therefore consider that the disclosure of the documents is not in the public interest and is exempt by virtue of Sch 1 Cl 7 (1)(b).
“If I were to release the documents, I am of the view that the relevant third party would be at an unfair disadvantage in the political industry.”
“This Labor claim of ‘trade secrets’ is ridiculous, as is the decision by the ECSA,” said Mr Lucas.
“The reality is these documents simply reflect the ECSA’s decision as to whether or not there has been a breach of the Electoral Act by the State Liberals and in no way refer to Labor ‘trade secrets’.
“There is a clear public interest in knowing what decisions the ECSA has made and any reasons that might have been used to justify those decisions. The ECSA’s decision-making process should be transparent and the ECSA should be held accountable for its decisions. I am appalled that the Labor Party and the ECSA have used this ridiculous excuse to prevent public accountability.
“The State Liberals have lodged an appeal to the Ombudsman to seek a reversal of this bizarre decision by the ECSA.”