HIS­TORY REDACTED

Ca­reer a state se­cret

Mercury (Hobart) - - FRONT PAGE - BLAIR RICHARDS

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.

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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.

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