Career a state secret
DISCLOSING the dates former Opposition leader Rene Hidding held two high-profile positions as a politician has been ruled to not be in the public interest — and so redacted from a Right to Information request.
In a decision blasted as “stupid”, the dates Mr Hidding was Opposition whip and deputy Opposition leader were among the details blacked out in the response to a request to see Mr Hidding’s taxpayerfunded retirement payout. The dates are both on parliament’s website.
THE redaction of historical facts on a former Liberal MP’s career has been labelled “stupid” by the state’s leading Right to Information expert. Documents released to the
Mercury last week under an RTI request for details of former Police Minister Rene Hidding’s retirement payout were significantly redacted.
The amount of the payout was redacted, but so were certain dates relating to positions held by Mr Hidding during his time in parliament.
These included the exact dates within which he served as Opposition Whip and deputy leader of the Opposition.
This was despite these dates being available on the Tasmanian Parliament website.
The dates Mr Hidding served as Opposition leader and minister were included.
The justification under the Act for redacting the information was that it was personal information and that it may “harm the interests of an individual or group of individuals”.
Tasmanian academic and RTI expert Rick Snell said the redacted dates were an example of a longstanding cultural problem around the process.
“This whole process is just a classic example of an RTI officer starting off on a mission of denying access rather than presuming under the Act it should be open to disclosure unless there’s a very good reason or reasons not to make it available,” Professor Snell said.
“They have returned what I would regard as stupid justifications because these are publicly known bits and pieces.
“They haven’t applied the public interest test in the way it ought to be applied.”
The State Government would not comment on whether the redactions were appropriate.
“Any RTI application is independently assessed and occurs at arm’s length from a ministerial office,” a spokeswoman said. Based on information that was not redacted and publicly available information on politicians’ salaries, the Mercury believes Mr Hidding’s payout was more than $1.2 million.
He was one of two remaining politicians who qualified for generous benefits available to parliamentarians elected before 1999 — and who were paid out during the 2018-19 financial year.
It’s understood the other was long-time Nelson MLC Jim Wilkinson, who retired in April.