Victorian Premier's Office battles to keep 'Dictator Dan's' documents secret

A legal dispute aiming to shield hundreds of records from Dan Andrews' highly controversial tenure sparks concerns over government transparency.

Victorian Premier's Office battles to keep 'Dictator Dan's' documents secret
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Premier Jacinta Allan's legal team is locked in a heated debate at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, asserting that documents related to the mishandled hotel quarantine program, crucially sought under Freedom of Information laws, are now off-limits following Dan Andrews' resignation in September.

The opposition has slammed the former premier, alleging he's deliberately stalling to evade scrutiny, fearing the case could establish a dangerous precedent enabling the government to withhold swathes of documents from public scrutiny.

The heart of the matter revolves around a 2021 FOI request by Liberal MP David Davis, targeting correspondence between Andrews, his chief of staff Lissie Ratcliff, and the department concerning hotel quarantine.

Initially agreeing to disclose hundreds of documents, the Premier's office now contends that certain documents are inaccessible or legally exempt post-Andrews' departure.

"This is a clear attempt to subvert the FOI Act by prolonging the process," Mr Davis asserted at VCAT. He challenged the notion that Andrews no longer holds access to documents from his premiership, arguing for continued transparency.

Both the Australian Information Commissioner and the Victorian Information Commissioner have iterated that FOI requests persist despite ministerial changes, underscoring the importance of ongoing access to governmental records.

With the case looming, Davis emphasised its significance, particularly regarding pivotal government decisions during Andrew's contentious pandemic rule, including the hotel quarantine setup, which had profound implications.

The release of documents under FOI laws has drawn scrutiny, with concerns raised over impediments to transparency since Labor took office in 2014, evidenced by increased complaints to the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner.

With the case set to resume at VCAT next week, the saga underscores broader debates surrounding governmental accountability and the public's right to access critical information.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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