“Freedom of information”. It doesn’t just sound like an arcane concept, it is deliberately treated as an arcane concept by most Government ministers and, increasingly, by Australia’s courts. This morning, the High Court added more gobbledygook to the process with its decision to deny The Australian access to Treasury documents about taxation bracket creep and the number of wealthy Australians claiming the first home buyer’s grant.
Pardon? The High Court? Wheeled in by the Treasurer to prevent publication of his department’s thoughts on the tax system that affects most Australians? We explain the Court’s decision in two stories in Crikey today, which suggest that the ruling is “a sad day for Australian democracy” and has “successfully strangled FOI in Australia”.
Or to put it more calmly: when politicians, abetted by the Courts, spend large amounts of taxpayers’ money to hide their deliberations about how they spend large amounts of taxpayers’ money, in the process making it much harder and more expensive for journalists to find out what’s going on in government, they are complicit in a fundamental subversion of open democracy.
What do they have to hide, apart from their own hubris?