Or more broadly, this is why we don’t trust the political system in Australia. It’s just set up to be so damned flawed, inefficient, unproductive and – I hate to say it – shady.
This was the overwhelming public reaction this week, when it was revealed that journalist Brett Mason put in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to understand the cost of Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price’s recent trip to Europe.
Her office replied that they could supply the information – at a cost of $2,515. This comprised of 45 hours of “search and retrieval” and 97 hours (or 2.5 full time weeks of working hours) worth of “decision-making”.
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We can only assume that the decision-making related to how much information they wanted to share with the public? As one taxpayer, Judd, wrote on Twitter, “In what way is there a decision to be made? Retrieve all of the receipts for the trip, nothing else and produce them. Any decision-making can only be decisions about what to cover up.”
The outrageous cost of preparing the FOI is to be paid by the journalist or their employer; in this case, the SBS.
Now for those who don’t know, journalists are allowed to ask how much our politicians are spending of our taxpayer dollars via FOI’s, and these investigations often result in scandals.
So much so that The Guardian news has an entire section on their website dedicated to these scandals.
By design, FOI requests are meant to keep people honest.
Which leads this cynical amongst us – such as me – to wonder whether a $2,500 “access fee” to such information was put forward in an effort to dissuade further investigation?
For what it’s worth, Minister Price says she wasn’t consulted about the cost.
“The department arrived at the FOI cost estimate on its own and my office was not consulted,” Ms Price said in a statement to SBS News.
“I am more than happy for the costs of my official travel to the UK and Europe last month to be released under normal FOI processes.”
Her office later confirmed that the request will be processed without charge, within the 30 day statutory decision period.
I think we will all be waiting with baited breath to see the results of that FOI request.