NAIF are holding taxpayers’ money to ransom behind a wall of secrecy
Press release - 27 June, 2017
June 28, 2017: The continued refusal of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to respond to any and all freedom of information requests represents a failure to the Australian taxpayer and is impermissible under law.
More than 1,500 Greenpeace supporters used an online tool created to assist them in submitting a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the board across a range of topics.
The NAIF have responded with a blanket refusal to answer the requests.
“The repeated refusal by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to reveal any information about their functioning is dismaying,” Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner, Nikola Casule, said.
“Excuses have ranged from the usual commercial in confidence to documents being changed after the request was submitted to fears of cyber-bullying, and potential public opposition to NAIF’s plans.
“What it amounts to is a refusal to have any form of accountability to the Australian public despite controlling $1 billion of their money.”
In failing to respond to the most recent round of FOI requests the NAIF responded that answering would “substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the agency”.
But Principal Solicitor with the Environmental Defenders Office NSW, Elaine Johnson, said the response was improper and was counter to the spirit of FOI laws.
“In deciding whether an FOI request is unreasonable, it is irrelevant to consider the number of people who sought that information,” Johnson said.
“The requests are legitimate requests and cover a range of important public interest issues, in relation to funding of Adani’s coal mine in the Galilee Basin, managing climate change risk and investments in fossil fuels.
“The fact that more than 1,500 people have applied for documents held by NAIF only serves to demonstrate the clear public interest in making that information publicly available.
“The approach proposed by NAIF to the requests is not consistent with how the law is intended to work.
“NAIF is bound by these laws to respond in a way that favours access to information sought, yet it appears to be doing the opposite.
Earlier this month an inquiry into the composition of the NAIF board was announced after possible conflicts of interest were revealed around some of the members.
“A refusal to respond to taxpayers’ questions about how their money is being spent is outrageous enough in itself,” Casule said.
“But when you combine it with the fact an inquiry is currently being conducted into the makeup of the board and the public statements being made by Coalition MPs about a proposed $1 billion loan to the rail infrastructure for the Carmichael coal mine, it makes it look like they have something to hide.”
“Some requests are always going to be rejected but a blanket refusal to answer any and all questions is outrageous and this refusal should be included in the terms of reference for the senate inquiry.”
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