Many believed the recent #righttoknow movement, sparked by a wave of impingements on press freedom, would cause governments to think twice before redacting hundreds of pages in core documents.
In a spectacular own goal, Victoria’s Andrews Labor government did just that in tabling the business case for its level crossings removal program.
On Wednesday, the state’s transport department released the 284-page document, following months of sustained pressure from the upper house.
But rather than present the document in its entirety, rival politicians and journalists alike quickly realised there was little to browse.
Because, as bizarre videos showed, public servants chose to redact 283 pages.
Cue the ridiculous scenes of journalists rifling through reams of blacked-out paper.
— Brett Mcleod (@Brett_McLeod) November 27, 2019
The state’s Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the government claimed “executive privilege”, and suggested full disclosure of the document would “be contrary to the public interest”.
However, that’s not where the story ends.
Because as local journalists later revealed, the document was already publicly available … for more than two years.
– the document is already publicly available!
– but some boffins decided that blacking out publicly available information was smart!
– and then no one did the sensible thing to change it
– so here is the full thing if you really want to read it https://t.co/CfHYgwCCd2
— Angus Livingston (@anguslivingston) November 27, 2019
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan later clarified on Twitter that the full document was free to view online, but by then, the opposition had already pounced.
State Liberal leader Michael O’Brien said the display was an affront to locals amid the spotlight on government transparency.
“It’s just extraordinary that the government’s got so little respect for Victorians. They’re prepared to actually release these sorts of documents, which tell you nothing,” Mr O’Brien said.
“This is an arrogant government – they don’t care about letting Victorians know what they’re doing.”
Talk about a major fluff up. And if you are so inclined, here is the government’s business case, sans redaction.