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NZ Prime Minister: I'm not a lizard!

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by RacingTurtles, Feb 17, 2014.

  1. Prime Minister of New Zealand has officially denied being a shape-shifting reptile, in response to a question posed through something called 'Official Information Act', which appears to be a Kiwi equivalent of our Freedom of Information Act. You can read the whole story here.

    I just wonder if Tony Abbott would answer, not that I would believe him for a second. Actually I wonder if our Freedom of Information Act would provide the means for posing the question in the first place.

  2. I'm more interested if Justus, our resident kiwi is a shape shifting reptile. Which would also mean crisis is.
  3. ^^Cat stalking a lizard, this won't end well.
  4. I think it is prudent to assume that *anyone* you haven't personally seen walking through an x-ray machine is a shape shifting reptile.

    I find it interesting that John Key issued a verbal denial but at no time did he offer to submit himself to an x-ray!
  5. All this coming from a turtle. I sense that this is just a distraction and the real threat comes from shape shifting turtles who don't want us to know their 'on their back' weakness.
  6. No.

    The FOI Act 1982 provides the right for you to request access to documents from Government Ministers and agencies.

    If you're only wanting to ask a Q: Contact-your-PM.


  7. I thought as much: 'contact-your-pm' is hardly a useful channel for enquiry, since it carries no obligation to provide any reply at all, let alone a truthful one. As for FOI Act, it is a toothless tiger really - just about anything that could be of even remote interest to anyone can be put under the umbrella of exceptions defined in this act!
  8. No arguments there. Departments are notorious for using delay tactics and exceptions to deny access, so the next step is get a tribunal order forcing them to provide you with the requested documents.

    Colin Chapman v NSW Commissioner of Police NSWADT [2004]

  9. This is generally done, not because there is a cover=up nor, indeed, because there is anything to cover up, but because it is a massive pain in the arse for understaffed and overworked departments (and, whatever the Daily Terrorgraph may tell you, many departments are) to comply with any but the most specific request. Most requests are not specific, being couched more in terms of "all documents relating to such-and-such a matter", compliance with which is like trying to track down every junk file and modification a piece of Microsoft software has inserted into your computer.

    Not an excuse, particularly, but an explanation.
  10. I know little of WA except its location.

    If you are referring to eastern states, the explanation is not only simplistic, but incorrect.

    FYI, I do not rely on newspaper articles like most others, but research judicial proceedings and special reports pursuant to Sect 30A and Sect 31.

    I can guarantee delays are not due to the reasons you would have others believe.


  11. Damn he has found us out Justus, will you kill him or will I. :)
  12. All right, maybe I shouldn't have used the term "generally".

    However, simplistic or not, I've seen delays happen for exactly the reason I gave and so I would dispute that it is incorrect in all cases.

    The Terrorgraph reference was to forestall any comments (not necessarily by you) about shiny-arsed, lazy Public Servants, a stereotype which is no longer as accurate as it may once have been. It was not intended as a comment on the legal technicalities of any case.

    I accept that some delays may very well be due to other reasons and for ulterior motives at times.

    I have no skin in this particular game, no longer being a PS and so I don't especially care what anyone chooses to believe or, indeed, knows to be the case in any specific instance. I have, however, seen an entire branch effectively shut down for several days, denying reasonable service to the majority of the public, while all available staff were involved in finding and collating myriad paper tentacles to satisfy an FOI request that was, without going into background detail, largely BS and a result of possible mental illness on the part of the requestor. Given that a majority of Public Servants (OK, anecdotal, small sample) actually believe in providing a service to the public as a whole rather than to noisy individuals, funnily enough FOI requests requiring significant resources to fulfil often don't rate a high priority.

    Like I said, this isn't a comment on specific cases where malice has been a factor.
  13. Might explain why he spent so much time on the rooftop
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Yet another example of police employing delaying tactics for ulterior motives.

    Video: Woman secretly filmed having sex

    'I will never trust a policeman again'

    A Sydney woman has claimed to be the fourth victim of a New South Wales cop convicted for secretly filming himself having sex with three different women, then showing workmates.

    The alleged victim has also accused the police force of refusing to act on her case, as it could implicate senior officers.


    Melissa Bust was told by police that the man she thought was her boyfriend, Marc Osborn (above), had filmed the two of them having sex, and had shown it to his fellow officers. Osborn has also been convicted of filming three other women during sex without their knowledge.

    "I was disgusted. I went home and threw up. I would never trust a police officer again" Ms Bust told 7News. "I wish I'd never met him."

    Melissa and Marc met while he was working at Chatswood police station. She said she was attracted to him, and like that he said he did charity work, and helped sick children.

    The pair would meet up while Mr Osborn was on duty.

    "I saw him three out of four shifts," Melissa said. "He would work two day shifts, two night shifts and I would see him on three of those four shifts."

    Melissa discovered that her time with Osborn had been filmed after police raided his home looking for an illegally shot video.

    "I was so, so scare there was more footage," she said. "I was so scared who had seen it. I just had endless worries about what had been done with it. I still don't know to this day how he filmed it. I don't know where the camera was," Melissa said.

    Marc was convicted last September of using hidden pinhole cameras to film three different women with whom he was having sex, without their knowledge.

    He boasted about his prowess to his fellow officers, and showed them clips on his iPhone. Osborn gave some of the women different names in the clips such as
    'The Italian' and 'The Portuguese'.

    During the case, senior officers confirmed they knew what he was doing, but turned a blind eye.

    Inspector Ron Trundell said in his evidence that he knew Osborn was seeing a number of ladies and showing pictures to other officers, and that he would say things such as 'look at this one, this is my latest'.

    Osborn was given 200 hours community service and granted paid hardship leave.

    “This sort of behaviour creates all sorts of problems for police,” UWS Police Academic Dr Michael Kennedy said. “It is extremely destructive in terms of public confidence.”

    Osborn has never been charged in relation to Melissa's evidence.

    Melissa says there is a reason why police lawyers will not take on her case, unlike in other cases, Osborn filmed her while he was supposed to be on duty.

    Therefore, if the case goes to court, it could implicate police officers who knew he was committing a criminal act while on duty.

    “NSW Police know about this behaviour and within the culture that they currently have, they may even be seen to approve of that behaviour,” Melissa said.

    Melissa says the pictures on the tape that police have shown her contain credible evidence that he was on duty, because they show a taser.

    “It proves he was on duty because a police officer cannot carry a taser without the commissioner's consent,” Melissa said.

    Melissa wants more evidence from the police so she can take Osborn to court, including the recording and other documents that would prove he was on duty when he committed the offence.

    7News asked police questions on Melissa's behalf, and also tried to contact Osborn. It was obvious that Osborn, the convicted criminal was in touch with his police superiors.

    While researching this story, Police asked if it was a 7News camera crew outside an Osborn family home in Newcastle.

    Osborn was then noticed to have swapped his personalised number plates for standard number plates. 7News then found Osborn in the Sydney harborside suburb of Watsons Bay.

    Melissa has been to court to try to get access to police documents that would support her case, such as police rosters and log books.

    By cross checking these documents with her own diary, Melissa says she hopes to prove that NSW Police are liable for Osborn’s misconduct.

    “No police officer can act entirely alone,” she said. “You have to account for your whereabouts, you have to account for your vehicles and sign log books.

    “There will be a clear record of evidence to prove this,” Melissa said.

    7News asked the NSW Police why they did not release relevant police notebooks, duty books and car logs to Melissa after a judge refused her initial application.

    The response:

    “While the matter is still before the courts, it is not appropriate to comment further.”

    7News pointed out Melissa’s claims are not part of the current court proceedings.

    The Police said their "statement still stands."

    While there is no statement for public consumption, NSW Police lawyers told Melissa's legal team that if she does not sign a legal form promising no further action against police, she will be forced to pay $25,000 in legal costs.

    “I feel now like police are bullying me,” Melissa said. “I feel I am not able to speak out, that's why I am speaking to you.

    “I would never trust a police officer again, I would never encourage anybody to join the police – I used to always encourage them,” she said.

    Marc Osborn will be back in court on March 20.

    After 10 days of questions from 7News, NSW Police have been forced to act and Marc Osborn has been sacked, effectively immediately.

    Melissa says her case is far from over.

  15. I'm reasonably sure I just conceded the point that you're continuing to make.
  16. Another example of police employing delaying tactics citing lack of resources to reject an application, under s 28A FOI Act.

    s 28 -Requests may be refused in certain cases

    (1) The agency or Minister dealing with a request may refuse to grant access to documents in accordance with the request, without having caused the processing of the request to have been undertaken, if the agency or Minister is satisfied that the work involved in processing the request—

    (a) in the case of an agency—would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the agency from its other operations;

    Andrew McIntosh MP (Kew)


    Victoria Police

    1. The applicant has applied under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to have access to “all staff rosters produced by each police station in Victoria for pay periods ending in November 2007”.

    2. Every police station produces a roster each fortnight in advance which relates to each fortnightly pay period. The roster is generated electronically, and then printed out and placed on a noticeboard within each station. Large stations generally have multiple rosters – one, for instance for a sexual assault squad, one for a community relations squad, and so on. Smaller stations produce only one roster which covers all officers at the station. In November 2007 there were two pay periods which ended in November 2007. Thus, the applicant wants access to two rosters for each station (or for each squad within a station) in Victoria.

    3. Once the printed roster is placed on the noticeboard, it is then the subject of handwritten changes as unforeseen events require amendment to the roster. The electronic version of the roster is not updated with these handwritten changes. I was shown an example roster and it appeared to me that there were regular handwritten changes of one sort or another made to the roster I saw.

    4. When the fortnight has passed the roster is taken down and a new one for the next fortnight substituted. The Respondent does not know whether this hard copy is invariably kept and filed away, or destroyed. The electronic copy remains in the computer memory.

    5. The Respondent says that the breadth of the request made by the applicant is such that it would substantially and unreasonably divert Victoria Police from its core operations. It asks me to rule that it is therefore justified in refusing to grant access to the applicant.

    6. Subsection 2 of section 25A sets out matters which the agency (and myself standing in the shoes of the agency) can take into account in making this decision. The list is not exhaustive, but it includes matters such as the resources which would have to be used in identifying, locating or collating the documents, examining the documents, consulting with any person or body about the request, copying the documents, and notifying of any decision on the request.

    7. Subsection (3) makes it clear that in assessing this question no account at all is to be taken of the reasons given by the applicant for requesting access to the documents, or the agency’s belief as to what those reasons are. It is for this reason that I have not set out in this judgment the public interest issues which might otherwise be thought to be relevant to this request.

    8. Section 25A is clearly intended to be a procedure to stop voluminous requests being processed which would impact on the proper carrying out of an agency’s functions. The decision is to be made at an early stage before those resources have been expended. The purpose of the section was described in Secretary to the Department of Treasury v Kelly [2001] in the following terms:

    “It is plain enough that s 25A was introduced to overcome the mischief that occurs when an agency’s resources are substantially and unreasonable diverted from its core operations by voluminous requests for access to documents. The emphasis of the amendment was on the prevention of improper diversion of the agency’s resources from their other operations. The provision was introduced to strike a balance between he object of the Act... and the need to ensure that the requests under the act did not cause substantial and unreasonable disruption to the day to day workings of the government through its agencies.”

    9. It follows that in asserting section 25A, an agency cannot be obliged to specify exactly how much time and energy would be spent by the agency in processing the request. Estimates only are acceptable, as to ensure precision would mean the agency would have to do the very work that section 25A is designed to prevent.

    10. However, as with every other section of the Act, I must approach my task keeping squarely in mind that the purpose of the Act is to “extend as far as possible the right of the community to access to information in the possession of the government of Victoria”, and that it is the express intention of parliament, set out in section 3(b) of the Act that the provisions of the Act shall be interpreted so as to further the objects of the Act. Thus in all claims for exemption, including this one, the Respondent bears the burden of proving that the exemption is made out.

    The evidence called by the Respondent

    11. Respondent has attempted to discharge that onus in this case by relying on the evidence of two police officers. The first, Commander Clegg, gave evidence of how onerous the task would be to individual police stations of locating, identifying and collating the rosters sought. The second, Superintendent McMeekin, who holds the position of Freedom of Information officer of Victoria Police, gave evidence of how difficult the job of the Freedom of Information Unit of the Victoria police would be in identifying, collating and collating the rosters sought, and also in examining the documents, consulting with police stations and officers regarding the request, copying the documents, and generally how the request would impact on the work of the Freedom of Information Unit within Victoria Police.

    12. Commander Clegg is a member of the Human Resources Department of Management of Victoria Police. He gave evidence that there were over 11,000 police officers in Victoria, stationed at a total of 324 police stations. The police stations are divided into five geographical regions. Each region has its own autonomous human resources department.

    13. Each unit prepares their own hard copy roster, generated from a computer generated roster in the manner I have described above. In a large station, up to 8 different unit rosters would be produced. There was no central database as to the person responsible for preparing each such roster, although the officer in charge of each individual station would know the identity of the person so responsible within his station.

    14. Commander Clegg gave evidence that if the request was to be satisfied, contact would need to be made with each officer in charge of each police station. He exhibited a list of all stations in Victoria. He said that officer would then need to contact the officer in charge of preparing each individual unit roster (if there were any at the station). He agreed this contact could be made by email, perhaps also by group email.

    15. He said the officer in charge would then need to ascertain if the hard copy rosters had been retained or discarded. If retained they would have to be physically located and photocopied. In the case of a large station the roster would be large and photocopying it would take some time. He agreed that at every station the computer would still retain the original roster in electronic form. He agreed it would not be difficult to email that electronic form of roster to the Freedom of Information Unit.

    16. Superintendent McMeekin gave evidence of the work she anticipated the FOI unit would need to do to process the request. She anticipated the unit would need to send a direction to the officer in charge of each police station or squad to deliver the rosters to the FOI Unit. She thought that could be done by letter or email. This would involve the sending of approximately 900 letters or emails. She said there is no designated email address book, so some time would need to be spent in making sure the unit had all the correct email addresses. However, she did concede that officers in charge of each station would know which squads were operating out of their stations.

    17. She was concerned that a proportion of these emails would be overlooked or accidentally deleted. The FOI unit would then have to follow up those stations or units who did not reply.

    18. She was concerned that time may be spent ascertaining whether individual hard copy rosters still existed or had been discarded. The rosters are not prepared in standard form. She gave evidence that some of the abbreviations used would be difficult to decipher, and time would need to be spent obtaining an explanation.

    19. She was also concerned that there would be an influx of calls from stations querying the nature or appropriateness of the request.

    Discussion of the Respondent’s evidence

    20. In analysing this evidence, I note that the words “substantially” and unreasonably” have not been precisely defined in section 25A. The various references to these words in decided cases in other jurisdictions have been helpfully set out in Wright v SECV [1998 VCAT] 162. However, essentially I take these words not to require overwhelming proof of difficulty, and to allow some latitude to the Respondent, given that the difficulty of the process can only be estimated, not proven.

    21. Even so, I was not persuaded by the evidence of Commander Clegg or Superintendent McMeekin that the processing of the Applicants request would substantially and unreasonably divert resources of Victoria Police from its other operations.

    22. The request was agreed by McMeekin to be essentially simple in nature. It does not require complex analysis or the sifting through of mountains of documents. It is rendered time-consuming primarily by the number of rosters which would need to be located overall.

    23. Although there would be many stations throughout Victoria which would have to retrieve and send in hard copy rosters, or electronic copy rosters, the work involved by each officer in charge is not great. Commander Clegg gave evidence that in preparation for this hearing, he had attended City West police station and obtained an April Roster to produce to this hearing in less than 20 minutes. City West is the largest police station in Victoria, containing over 150 police officers. A schedule of police stations and numbers attached to the witness statement of Commander Clegg showed that many stations are very small, with under 10 police at the station.

    24. Of course the officer in charge may need to make more enquiries for a roster dating back to last November, but even if this doubled the time taken by Commander Clegg, it still could not be described as substantially diverting the resources comprised in those officers so as to defeat a claim to production of the documents.

    25. Superintendent McMeekin did not put a convincing case for the substantial diversion of resources of the FOI Unit. She gave evidence that the task of masking the names and numbers of each individual police officer would be done by her office, not by the officer in charge, for policy reasons. But even taking the work required by that into account, there was no credible evidence of a large or unreasonable workload being generated by this request.

    26. The applicant called evidence from Don Coulson, who has had experience as a freedom of information officer in other large organisations, particularly the Department of Transport. He made precise estimates of the various stages required to be implemented in processing the request, and the number of hours this processing would take. He estimated that the request would absorb approximately 55 hours of the Respondents time overall.

    27. Coulson was cross-examined as to these estimates. However, his calculations of time appeared to be to be credible. It is true that his FOI experience was not strictly analogous to that of the requirements of FOI in the police force. However, the Respondent’s witnesses made no credible attack on his estimates, and gave no alternative estimate of their own.

    28. I am aware that precision is not required, but it appeared to me that the Respondent had not grappled with the question of what time and resources would reasonably be involved. Neither Commander Clegg nor Superintendent McMeekin referred to Coulson's witness statement in giving their evidence, except when invited to in cross-examination. Both said the first time they had seen his statement was on the morning of this hearing, even though it had been filed and served a month ago.

    29. I heard that the FOI unit had many outstanding freedom of information requests, and that some had taken over the required time to process. She told me that in April of this year there were 360 outstanding FOI requests in her office, of which 160 had exceeded the 45 day processing limit. She said as at the date of giving her evidence, the number had reduced to 309 and the number over the 45 day limit reduced to 129. However, Superintendent McMeekin was not prepared to say that the unit was under resourced, or that she would need to ask for extra resources from the Respondent to process this claim. She was not prepared to forecast that this application would be unable to be processed within the 45 day limit.

    30. I note in any event that the section requires me to consider the capacity of the agency overall to process the request, not the capacity of the FOI unit of the agency. I heard no evidence at all as to whether other staff of the Respondent were available to be called apon to process this request if it was beyond the present capacity of the FOI Unit.

    31. I suspect that Superintendent McMeekin was mainly concerned about the volume of enquiries she may have from police officers because of the sensitivity of the request. This might be anticipated because of the nature of the rosters – which record not only when an officer is not rostered, but the reasons for leave. Examples might include leave on Workcover, participation in special police operations, or other personal reasons. It has been pointed out by Commander Clegg that even if names and numbers are blanked out, officers may be identified by their position on the roster – for instance the names are generally posted on a roster in order of seniority, so it would not be possible to anonymise the rosters.

    32. In my view it is not appropriate that I take into account in deciding this application the evidence that many police officers may contact the Police FOI Unit to challenge release of the rosters, or to raise privacy or other operational issues. This may be the case with many FOI requests, whether voluminous in nature or not. It is not appropriate for me to take into account any “heightened sense of concern” police officers may have regarding these issues. They are issues which surround any freedom of information application to any government agency. Addressing these concerns is a core function of any FOI office.

    33. Any concern of this nature should be addressed by a memorandum by the Unit making it clear that the request is for production of the rosters to the FOI Unit, and that issues of operational importance or personal privacy will be addressed separately prior to release.

    Section 33 – the Privacy Exemption

    34. Citing these privacy concerns, the Respondent has separately asked me to rule the request also exempt under section 33 of the Act. That section provides that a document is exempt if its disclosure would involve the disclosure of “information relating to the personal affairs “of a person, and also if its disclosure would be unreasonable.

    35. I have however determined that the section 33 application is premature. The Respondent suggested that the mere fact that the document is described as a roster gives me sufficient information to make a decision that the document must by its very description necessarily involve the disclosure of personal affairs. The Respondent cited the case of Re Knight v CORE [2002] VCAT 1769 as authority for that proposition. However, that case was decided under section 25A(5), and the Respondent expressly told me that section is not relied on in this case.

    36. Further, there is a world of difference between a sentenced prisoner with a history of extreme violence requesting to see a roster of the names of on duty prison officers guarding him, and a member of parliament wishing to see anonymised rosters of on duty police at police stations throughout Victoria, where the applicant professes a public interest in the information sought. Any decision on the section 33 exemption must await ascertainment of the facts surrounding this application.


    37. I stress that I am not deciding today that the rosters be released to the applicant. I am deciding whether or not the applicants request should be processed. My decision is that the Respondent cannot refuse to process this request under section 25A of the Act. A decision as to the applicability of any other of the exemptions in the Act must await the outcome of the processing of this request.

    38. For all the above reasons, it is my view that the respondent cannot avail itself of section 25A of the Act, and I order it to process the application in the normal way. Further, there is a world of difference between a sentenced prisoner with a history of extreme violence requesting to see a roster of the names of on duty prison officers guarding him, and a member of parliament wishing to see anonymised rosters of on duty police at police stations throughout Victoria, where the applicant professes a public interest in the information sought. Any decision on the section 33 exemption must await ascertainment of the facts surrounding this application.

    Her Honour Judge Harbison
    Vice President

  17. I have no doubt that the amount of resources (read: our money) police expended on trying to weasel their way out of satisfying this request far exceeded that required to just provide the info.

    In fact I'd say that would be the case practically every time courts are involved, just because of the outrageous costs of legal proceedings.