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The Forum > Article Comments > High Court Chipps back right to know > Comments

High Court Chipps back right to know : Comments

By Cecelia Burgman, published 29/9/2006

While the world celebrates the right to know Australia is in retreat.

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In general, the author is right. But she is wrong to add to her list ‘involvements in conflicts such as Iraq’. No government should be handing out information on defence or foreign policy for the obvious reasons of security.

Of course Australians did nothing to mark Right to Know Day. We Australians must be the most complacent people on Earth. We are almost completely disconnected from the political process, only showing interest when a government decision hits us in the pocket. We are so dopey, we will be a pushover when, after testing the water to see what they can get away with, our benign-seeming politicians strike. Politicians are a breed apart. They are there for the power and prestige. They are not to be trusted.

The author suggests that we contact our local members, the PM, senators and ‘anyone else who will listen’. The problem is, there isn’t anyone who will listen, now. Most Australians do not have any contact with politicians, and those politicians have taken it for granted that most Australians are not interested. They are right.

What other reason could there be for politicians doing as the please, in a democracy?

How many people who read this piece will do as the young lady suggests? Answer: very few
Posted by Leigh, Friday, 29 September 2006 12:22:27 PM
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I was utterly disgusted to hear the high court ruling on that case - in what possibly way can it serve the public interest to deny access to that information.

The information requested was financial in nature - it was in relation to how many people in the higher income brackets were receiving government handouts.

This was not an issue of national security, nor would it breach privacy laws - those newspapers wanted to know how many grants there had been - not who they'd been given to.

And yet... the treasurer denied them access, and the high court agreed, though to be fair, Kirby did whimper. It was a pathetic effort at protest, and you could see his heart wasn't really in it.

Leigh - I agree with your comments in principle, though the devil is in the details - in relation to foreign policy and involvement in wars, some information has to be given to the public. The government should never be allowed to censor things like the number of casualties and the like - the only items justified in being censored, are actual tactical documents, that are still in effect.

In relation to speaking to the local members... you say there's no one who will listen. I've spoken to my local member a few times, and he's always been agreeable. Sure, there are many who don't listen, but maybe if more people tried to speak to them they may change their attitudes. It's easy to say "they need to change" but much harder to prompt them to do so.
Posted by TurnRightThenLeft, Friday, 29 September 2006 1:06:52 PM
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it was an appauling decision by the High Court - but so was the resistance to the request by Costello- however he is not the only politician to wants to closely gaurd information - both side do it equally as well - it suits them to be informtion rich and keep us relatively information poor ( with apologies to Barry Jones and Sleepers Wake)

And I disagree with Leigh about government secrect and security.

Governnments should be far more open with information about defence and foriegn policy matters - yes there are security concerns -

but it is far too easy for a government to tell us it is not in our best interests not to know something - particularly when we dont know what the "something" might be -the unquestioning trust we place with them is breath taking - it flatters them and their capabilties.

Goverment secrets are a bit like the crap we keep in the third drawer from the top in the kitchen - you the the one - its full of bits of string, blunt scissors, emopty rolls of sticky tape and the odd brown paper bag - throw all of it out and it is likely that you will miss none of it.

Governments keep secrets out of habit - often for no reason other than they have done it that way for years -
Posted by sneekeepete, Friday, 29 September 2006 1:26:45 PM
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I do not believe that there is such a thing as a “fundamental human right”. Rights are a social construct, something conferred within societies as a means of helping the achievement of certain goals. Unlike “fundamental rights”, the priority of different goals and the best means to achieve them will vary over time and in differing circumstances. So-called rights can diminish the capacity of a society to deal most positively with changing circumstances, and can limit debate about and investigation into the best means to achieve goals.

That said, I agree that society functions best, and makes the best decisions, when relevant information ifs freely available to all interested parties. The default should be that ALL government information should be universally available unless there is a clear community benefit from restricting access to it. The onus should be on governments to provide information and, if they wish to contain it, make a convincing case for the benefits of so doing. Unfortunately, this is rarely done, as the reasons for withholding information rarely benefit the broader community rather than limited vested interests.

But I don’t think that a “rights” argument will bring about change. Politicians must be convinced that real freedom of information is in their interests, because the electorate will react strongly to attempts to exclude them from what should be public knowledge. Unfortunately, this is not a significant issue for most people; it may impact on their lives, but either they are not aware of this or think that they can get more benefit from directing their energies to other activities, mainly or entirely of a non-political nature.

I’m still struggling to accept that my efforts to improve policy formulation in Queensland will never succeed. So long as people are ignorant and selfish, they will behave in ways which harm themselves and others, including blocking access to information. Better in the long run to direct more energy at developing wisdom in oneself and helping others to develop wisdom, to remove the root causes of the many ills of society.
Posted by Faustino, Friday, 29 September 2006 9:08:55 PM
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The right to suggest as well as the right to know.

A Needed Changing of the Guard - Based on extracts from the Guardian

The US and its allies have disappointed its thinking public so much through underestimating situations like Iraq as well as of the capabilities of underground organisations like Al Quaida, it is becoming hard to accept the meagre list of our allied capabilities or credentials. .

Poor judgment by our leaders has multiplied anti-Western terrorism to the point that we must admit that we can only win possibly with the help of Israel by forced capitulation of Iran and Syria through pattern bombing - leaving us wondering what sides Russia and China might take, and maybe India, and even Pakistan in the long run.

What has become a problem in today’s world, is that a dismaying number of people who admired the US, especially back in the days of the Keynesian-sponsored Marshall Plan, etc, are now changing their opinions. Indeed, going by reports it seems the US and Britain are playing the same old colonial double-game, with too many troops under orders to guard oilfields rather than organising some sort of democratic peace for the Arabic population.

US vice President Dick Cheney, as well as other White House members having major oil company interests certainly doesn’t help the situation.
Posted by bushbred, Saturday, 30 September 2006 12:49:23 PM
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Bushbred Part Two

Possibly more problematic are the US President’s rather dull remarks about freedom for all, reminiscent too much of British colonialist Land of Hope and Glory - Mother of the Free. Both the US and the UK must surely realise that ME Muslims did not come down in the last shower. Their grand-parents must surely have told truthful tales about Western imperialism and injustice, ever since Lawrence of Arabia was double-crossed just after WW1.

And even if our allies have tried to act more truthful - according to the newspaper article, unfortunately, there is little hope now of rebuilding the trust of non-Middle East Muslims or even of most global non-Muslims.

Finally, historians are saying that time is definitely not on our side, the leaking of our own advancing technology, will surely bring close the threat of a mini-nuclear bomb in a haversack - to be set off simply by pressing the button of a mobile phone.

Surely it is time our leaders left off thinking about missile diplomacy and pattern bombing, and thought more about the simple wisdom of a Gandhi, or a Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader able to organise a peaceful end to the Cold War, with an arrangement for the new Russia to retain most of its nuclear arsenal as part of the bargain. Or better and safer still, the perceptivity and common sense that helped Nelson Mandela calm down possibly the most arrogant elitist group of people to be found in modern times. The South African arparthaidists who also practised state terrorism, so much like the Nazis. Even the former Pope gave praise to Mandela, but not our new Pope, unfortunately.
Posted by bushbred, Saturday, 30 September 2006 12:55:12 PM
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