Congratulations to the 7:30 Report, which last night bought into the battle between <i>The Australian</i>’s Freedom of Information Editor Michael McKinnon and Treasurer Peter Costello that’s headed all the way to the High Court.

Crikey has been tracking this from the word go – a bid by McKinnon to obtain documents relating to income tax and bracket creep.

Information in the public interest, given the widespread debate over tax, you say? No according to the Treasurer, who signed what’s called a conclusive certificate blocking access to the material.

Peter Costello has said that FOI can prevent public servants giving frank and fearless advice. Actually, he and his Cabinet colleagues are probably the biggest barriers to that.

Perhaps he should have a think about what former NSW auditor general Tony Harris had to say last night:

If [the High Court] rules in favour of the McKinnon case, then we will know that just because you sign a certificate, because it would be political embarrassing if the material came out, is not sufficient for you to withhold the information. So the idea of identifying public interest as being my political interest will die.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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