Victoria’s Information Commissioner has slammed the Andrews Labor Government’s ongoing secrecy around critical fire services information.
Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV)’s recent decision to refuse to process a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, is a further example of Victorians being kept in the dark on the performance of Victoria’s fire services.
In response to an FOI request lodged by Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, Brad Battin MP, FRV said in a letter they were refusing access to the requested information ‘without fully processing the request’.
Upon raising this case with the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC), Information Commissioner Sven Bluennel has ordered FRV to process the request in accordance with the FOI Act, stating that he was “not satisfied the requirements for refusal to grant access to documents are met, on grounds the Agency did not consult with the Applicant in accordance with the mandatory consultation requirements under section 25A(6).”
Further, the Information Commissioner also found “the Applicant agreed to each part of the Agency’s suggestions for removing the grounds for refusing to process the request by substantially narrowing their request. If, in agreeing to narrow the scope in the way in which the Agency suggested was insufficient, then the advice provided to the Applicant was incorrect or inadequate.”
This is another appalling example of FRV and the Andrews Labor Government’s veil of secrecy over the fire services.
FOI requests to FRV are routinely delayed, disputed and denied, and one has to ask the question: Why are they not being transparent?
Daniel Andrews and the Minister for Emergency Services must immediately direct FRV to start following its legislated duty under the Freedom of Information Act, rather than running a protection racket for the Andrews Labor Government and United Firefighters Union management.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, Brad Battin:
“In my time as a Shadow Minister across numerous portfolios, FRV is without any doubt the most difficult agency to deal with regarding FOI requests.
“The Premier and the Minister for Emergency Services must say why FRV are trying to hide information from becoming public and who is instructing them to take this course of action.
“If the Andrews Labor Government is as serious about transparency and accountability as is so often claimed, I expect them to immediately instruct FRV to pull their heads in and start being honest and transparent with the Victorian public.”