Todays Senate Estimate hearings revealed that once again Freedom of Information (FOI) failings are occurring in the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyces office.
Officials at the table were unable to provide meaningful insight as to how FOI matters are dealt with in the Ministers office.
This is concerning due to that fact the Ministers office has refused to provide information sought in an FOI sent to his office in January this year with regards to his diary.
The Ministers office was excluded from that review. But the issues with how the Hansard Gate FOI was handled stretched into the Ministers office and resulted in Dr Grimes getting the sack for defending the integrity of his department.
When officials were asked simple questions about how many FOIs the Ministers office had received, who is responsible for handling FOIs in the Ministers office, when FOI briefings occurred and who replaced the Ministers former Chief of Staff who used to look after FOIs, the officials took the majority of questions on notice.
Senator McCarthy: In terms of the Ministers office receiving or logging how many FOI requests there are? Who would hold that?
Official: I think that would be a matter for the Ministers office, but we can take it on notice.
Senator McCarthy: Would you be able to explain to the Committee just how the FOI requests are processed though in the Ministers office? Once you have provided that advice?
Official: Ah, no, that would be a matter for the Ministers office.
Senator McCarthy: The Ministers former Chief of Staff Diana Hallam was responsible for processing FOI requests to the Ministers office. What handover process was undertaken upon her departure?
Official: Handover? Within the Ministers office?
Senator McCarthy: With the department in terms of FOIs?
Official: So the department, when the new Chief of Staff came into place the department, um, conducted a briefing with that Chief of Staff and undertook to take that through the provisions of the FOI Act and with some very basic understanding of the requirements of roles and responsibilities.
Senator McCarthy: When did that briefing take place?
Official: I would have to take that on notice.
Senator McCarthy: And when did Diana Hallam leave the Ministers office?
Official: I would have to take that on notice
Senator McCarthy: Who has replaced her as the Ministers Chief of Staff?
Senator Ruston: Senator McCarthy, currently, um, Simon Price, um, is operating, um is taken the role of Chief of Staff, in the senior Ministers office.
Senator McCarthy: In a permanent position?
Quinlivan: I think he refers to himself as acting Chief of Staff.
Senator Ruston: Well confirm that for you.