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Shhhhh ... there are secrets afoot

The Beagle Editor SECRET COUNCIL BUSINESS? Today I lodged a Formal Access Application (along with the obligatory $30 fee) with ESC, requesting information related to the sale of Moruya Racecourse. I did so, as Council has refused to disclose any information to the community about the sale, apart from the fact that Racing NSW is the buyer. The community have no idea as to whether value for money was achieved or if policy and legislative requirements were complied with. In fact council has actually stated, “Direct Negotiation negates obtaining best value for money”(email Oct 11). I do wonder if Council is aware of Chief Commissioner Hall’s advice regarding the ICAC Guidelines on Direct Negotiations: “I would remind agencies that the public interest is paramount when considering any form of negotiation, and direct negotiations can be detrimental to that interest by undermining the potential for government to realise the full value of public assets.” So it is heartening to know that the Government Information Public Access(GIPA) Act gives me the right to formally seek information from council that is not freely available on its website or upon an informal request. Before I lodged my request I checked council’s Disclosure Log. This “Log is a record of information that the council has already released in response to an Access Application.” It was of no surprise that the information I was seeking had not been released to any other member of the public. But what was surprising, is that the Disclosure Log recorded NO release of council information since Nov 2017. Possible explanations: 1. No one has sought information for the last 2 years, or have given up asking. 2. Updating the Log is yet another example of an ‘oversight’, ‘inadvertent omission’ etc 3. Since Nov 2017, ESC has refused to disclose any information claiming that it would not be in the public interest to do so.

A wise man once said:

“We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.”

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Patricia Gardiner

Deua River Valley

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