Posted on 20. Jan, 2012 in News

The Baillieu Government has again shown that its claim to be open and transparent is nothing more than spin after refusing to brief Labor MPs on its pseudo independent Freedom of Information Commissioner legislation, the spokesman for Scrutiny of Government, Martin Pakula, said today.

A departmental briefing for Opposition members on the Government’s FOI Commissioner Bill was scheduled for today but at the 11th hour the Baillieu Government cancelled it.

It’s the second time the briefing has been cancelled.

Mr Pakula said the Baillieu Government was more concerned about attacking the Labor Opposition and the media, than running the state.

“The Baillieu Government postponed the initial briefing and has now cancelled the latest briefing,” Mr Pakula said.

“It is not only far-fetched for this Government to suggest that Opposition MPs attending a standard departmental briefing for this Bill briefing is a stunt, it is completely offensive.

“This standard Bill briefing was never going to be controversial until the Government pulled the pin at the last minute and then tried to blame the Opposition.

“Claims that this was a media stunt by the Opposition are just ludicrous. It’s the only ‘media stunt’ ever that the media were not told about.

“And suggestions that Labor MPs would intimidate departmental staff are laughable.

“I think departmental staff would feel more intimidated by the Baillieu Government’s plans to sack 3600 public service workers, than they would be about a meeting with members of the Labor party.”

Historically it is standard government practice, when introducing a Bill to parliament, that the relevant Minister offers the Opposition and its members a briefing with Ministerial staff and departmental representatives on the Bill.

“Coalition Ministers are jumping at shadows and losing the plot,” Mr Pakula said.

“This is the latest effort by the Baillieu Government to stymie debate on a Bill to appoint an FOI Commissioner who will be a toothless tiger.

“Victorians have every right to question what the Baillieu Government is trying hide.

Mr Pakula said the Opposition would not be seeking another briefing.

“We’ll manage just fine without a briefing and the Baillieu Government will be hearing our response on the Bill soon enough.

“Clearly the Government is using any device that it possibly can to avoid briefing the Opposition on its legislation.  This is hardly open, transparent and accountable government as Victorians were promised.”

Member for Broadmeadows Frank McGuire was on his way to the briefing when he was notified that it was no longer going ahead.

“It beggars belief that you can’t even get a briefing on, of all topics, Freedom of Information,” Mr McGuire said.

“This redefines farce.”

Member for Narre Warren South Judith Graley was also attending the briefing.

“The last-minute decision to cancel the briefing is an extraordinary act by a Government which seems to be addicted to secrecy and enjoys bullying anyone who criticises its parliamentary or political agenda,” Ms Graley said.


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