The documents detailing government discussions in 2005 in which they secretly planned to take WorkChoices further won’t come to light after an Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision quashed the FOI request yesterday. It’s the end of a two and a half year quest.

Said AAT deputy president Stephanie Forgie: “The government is currently accountable in the context of workplace relations for its acts and omissions regarding the workplace relations law that has been enacted and not for amendments to that law that it may enact in the future”.

There are other news stories that won’t break ahead of time for want of oxygen. The fuel could be supplied through Freedom of Information laws. It’s just that infuriating levels of obfuscation are blocking the way.

Here are a few recent examples of stories waiting in the wings (many more here and here):

WorkChoices — are more changes planned?:

The report that the government secretly planned to take WorkChoices further in 2005  is a “media beat-up”, says Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey. But nevertheless, the documents detailing discussions will not see the light of day after the Tribunal decision to reject The Australian’s FoI request yesterday.

The July 2005 FoI application sought options considered by the Government on industrial relations reform in the previous 12 months, writes Ewin Hannan in The Oz. “It also sought forecasts, analyses, reports or documents on whether dismissals would increase; the extent of any expected jobs growth; the extent and likelihood of any fall in real incomes for any Australians; and any forecast or assessment of the likelihood or extent that entitlements such as four weeks’ annual leave, sick leave, leave loading, shift allowance and penalties would no longer be provided by employers.”

The government assures us it won’t happen so says it’s a moot point anyway. If they win, FoI dead-end or not, we’ll find out after the election.

John Howard and the Exclusive Brethren:

John Howard has exchanged letters five times with the Exclusive Brethren since 2003, but after 14 months of stalling on a simple freedom-of-information request, his office will not release the correspondence until well after election day, reports The Age. The paper “was informed last week that it was authorised to receive edited copies of four letters from members of the secretive sect to the Prime Minister, and one from the Prime Minister to the Brethren sent as recently as September last year. But the release was delayed by another 30 days to give the Brethren a chance to appeal against the decision, taking the earliest date of receipt of the correspondence to December 13 — three weeks after voters decide if Mr Howard will remain Prime Minister.”

Helen Coonan’s NetAlert survey:

Radio National’s Peter Mares has written in The Age about his ordeal to obtain the research behind statistics used to back up the Government’s NetAlert campaign which cost around $22 million. Eg. “In a recent study, 40 per cent of children who chat online said they had been contacted by someone they didn’t know.” And: “over half of 11-to-15 year olds surveyed who chat online are contacted by strangers”. He appears to have abandoned the quest in order to have a life. Mares is due to get the results five days after the election, notes Michael Duffy in The SMH.

WorkChoices ads survey.

After spending around $32 million selling WorkChoices, the government spent $1.8 million to survey if it had worked. Mark Davis, at the Australian Financial Review, sought the details under FOI laws but was rebuffed. He was told that for $708 he could have the documents. But there was a catch, writes Matthew Moore at The SMH news blog he was told that “under paragraph 21(1)(b) of the FoI Act” access would be denied until after an evaluation of the WorkChoices campaign. When would that be? “Late 2007” came the answer. Later on, section 21(1)(c) was cited instead — the release was said to be “contrary to the public interest”.