Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas said today claims by Mr Rann that Rann Government Ministers and political advisers were not involved in managing Freedom of Information (FOI) applications were untrue, and in fact evidence over three years showed Mr Rann was a serial offender.
Mr Rann made his claim on the weekend after the Rann Government was forced to defend accusations that it was trying to hide responses to 30 FOI applications from the Liberal Party until after the state election.
Mr Rann told the media on 31 December 2005 that it was illegal for the government to be involved in the FOI process:
“What’s been said is that somehow the Government has interfered in that – that would be illegal to do.”
Mike Rann, ABC TV News, 31 December 2005
The problem for Mr Rann and his credibility is that for three years there have been a number of examples where the Rann Government has already been caught out being involved in the process of preventing the release of information under FOI.
The first example involves a three-year battle by the Liberal Party under FOI to get details of $967 million in budget cuts announced in the 2002 budget. Mr Rann has so far succeeded in preventing the release of this information by claiming the answers prepared by public servants were protected by parliamentary privilege and shouldn’t be released!
The Liberal Party has copies of emails and a meeting agenda which showed Mr Rann’s personal legal adviser, Sally Glover, was involved in meetings with all departmental FOI officers where the Rann Government discussed how to manage the Liberal Party’s FOI request. Ms Glover was a ministerial adviser answering directly to Mr Rann and was not a public servant with responsibility for managing FOI requests.
The second example involves an FOI application for Economic Development Board documents which went to an appeal to the Ombudsman after the Government refused access. In a letter to the Ombudsman dated 6 February 2004 the CEO of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Mr Warren McCann, stated that his FOI officer had been ‘instructed’ by one of Mr Rann’s political advisers:
“… in reaching his determination about all but one part of one document the FOI officer was instructed by Mr Lance Worrall, who is the Premier’s economic adviser.”
The third and possibly clearest example relates to a recent FOI application lodge in November 2005 where a Rann Government Minister has actually taken the decision to delay responding until after the state election. The FOI officer, when contacted, has confirmed that the decision was taken by the Minister and not the FOI officer! Contrary to Mr Rann’s claim on the weekend, the FOI legislation does give Ministers the power, for some applications, to delay responses until after the election.
Contrary to Mr Rann’s promises to lead an open and accountable government, we now have the most secretive government in South Australia’s history. Mr Rann’s sorry record now includes:
• Restricting genuine access to information under FOI through widespread claims of parliamentary privilege as well as this latest rort of delaying answers until after the election
• Refusing to answer hundreds of questions taken on notice in Parliament
• Shutting down the Parliament early to prevent scrutiny of Government decisions
• Attempting to shut down all Parliamentary Committees, especially those proving to be an embarrassment to Mr Rann
Given the desperate lengths to which Mr Rann has gone, one can only assume Mr Rann is desperate to hide certain embarrassing details about himself and his Government from the people of South Australia until at least after the state election.