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Only yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) rescinded the invitations of several journalists to attend a public briefing regarding a multilateral trade agreement under negotiation called the Trans-Pacific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

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

Oh ASIC, it just keeps getting worse for you. Not content with accidentally blocking up to 250,000 websites and laughing it off as if of no consequence, it is now entirely evident that they aren’t capable of even keeping records of their mass-blocking escapades.

I made a freedom of information request regarding this incident on the 13 May, the final amended request reads:

  1. Documents relating to the blocking of, filtering of or interference with the IP address 198.136.54.104, or any websites or services on said IP address; and
  2. Documents specifying any IP addresses or websites targeted by ASIC for interference, blocking or filtering by the of s313 of the Telecommunications Act, from September 2012 to 21 May, 2013.

Pretty straightforward, right? Surely this is as simple as looking in their database of requests for blocking they’ve made. ASIC, you do have such a database, right? …Right?

I noticed that talk about the Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement has popped up on twitter again. This reminded me that I had emailed DFAT before I had this blog to ask about this treaty. I received a pretty damn opaque response, two months after I sent the email.

Basically, AJFTA contains an IP chapter, and they will not be showing anybody the text before it is signed. That’s literally all the information in this email.