Yesterday, DFAT requested a 30 day extension on a freedom of information request that requests access to documents regarding the ALRC’s copyright review in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

I declined, as the request is straight forward, and based on the money they requested I pay, they estimate it will take 9 hours to process.

Today, I received an email from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, informing me they have granted DFAT the 30 day extension:

Recently, there have been rumblings about the Attorney-General’s Department no longer publishing documents for freedom of information requests on their disclosure log as was previous practice. This is problematic, as a trend against transparency is not something we want to see from the AGD when it’s already so difficult to get facts out of government departments.

One of the rumblings going around was that it was due to accessibility reasons. This sounds like complete bullshit to me, given I’ve never seen an FOI request that a screen reader liked, so this is almost certainly not the case.

This lack of transparency spurned me into doing a project I’ve been meaning to do for a while. At this stage it’s called ‘foitorrent’, a system that scrapes all available documents from disclosure logs, and converts them into a torrent. This means that even if the original document is removed from the disclosure log, which does happen from time to time, it will still exist in the swarm while there are still seeders. A great way to archive government information.

This post was also published in the Guardian. This is the unedited version.

Only in Australia could the phrase “public briefing” mean that the meeting will be held behind closed doors, where journalists are not welcome.

Only yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) rescinded the invitations of several journalists to attend a public briefing regarding a multilateral trade agreement under negotiation called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

The TPP is an extensive agreement that covers typical topics such as goods and services, but also contains chapters on labour laws, intellectual property, the environment and investor-state dispute settlement provisions. This agreement is currently being negotiated completely opaquely between the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam. DFAT claims that it will be finished negotiating by the end of the year.

Over the weekend, many Pirates attended Pirate Congress 2013, and all in all, it went swimmingly. As is tradition, we started two hours late due to technical difficulties, but we managed to get through the mammoth 47 page booklet on time over the two days, covering 18 constitutional amendment proposals and 20 policy amendment proposals.

I am so happy that all of the constitutional amendments proposed passed with some minor amendments. Only one policy was defeated on the floor, and that was the copyright extension proposal. I am very happy that this amendment was dropped on the floor, as there was insufficient evidence to support an extension period being necessary for a copyright term.

Two policy amendments were committed to the PDC for consideration and development as they were not of sufficient quality to be adopted outright, and our members did a great job ensuring major policy proposals were internally consistent.

I thank the members who attended. Without you, Congress would not have been as successful or as rewarding as it was this year. I look forward to Congress being in the warmth next year, as it will be hosted in Brisbane. :D

Update: scroll to bottom. They say report not done, but review itself done. Nice ambiguity.

The report often referred to as the Hawke review was due to be tabled in Parliament on April 30. This, of course, did not happen.

On June 14, I sent them an email consisting of:

To whom it may concern,

The terms of reference for the Freedom of Information Review stated that
the report should be provided by 30 April, 2013.

I note that the date is currently 14 June, and am curious as to where
this report has been published.

Thanks.

They responded almost immediately:

Dear Mr Molloy

Thank you for your email. Dr Hawke has completed his review. His
report has not been tabled by the Attorney-General. The FOI Review
Secretariat is unable to provide an estimated tabling date at this stage.

Yours sincerely

FOI Review Secretariat