Australian Government Redacts Piracy Meeting Docs, Mocks Freedom Of Information Act

The federal government seems to enjoy holding meetings to discuss piracy and copyright laws and then not tell anyone about them (other than those involved). When inquiring minds, such as Delimiter's Renai LeMay, do attempt to find out what goes on, well, the government is happy to flat out deny requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Recently LeMay tried once again to obtain notes from the latest meeting and, while the government relented this time, almost all the documents were censored beyond usefulness.

Consumer groups have already been denied access to the piracy-related meetings, which is disconcerting in itself, but when the government decides to, well, make a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act, you can't help but wonder what the heck it's thinking.

LeMay's request resulted in the release of five documents, though they fail to include a list of attendees... which doesn't exist, according to the Attorney-General's Department. The identities of those invited were simply redacted, along with most of the contents of 18 pages of information taken down during the meeting by various government staffers.

Original photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty; edited by Gizmodo

If you think it's bad enough the media is being treated like this, don't worry, the AGD hasn't forgotten about the public at large. From Delimiter:

In a briefing issued to Attorney-General Nicola Roxon regarding the meeting [it was mentioned that] a public communications plan regarding the talks was "not required". "There has been media interest in the progress of these discussions, but information discussed will not be released publicly," it stated.

A senior legal officer for the department, Jane Purcell, justified the redactions by saying that while the government continues to discuss a solution to piracy, it would be "contrary to the public interest" to release information about the meetings. She also offered the following convoluted explanation:

"Disclosure of the documents while the negotiations are still in process, would, in my view, prejudice, hamper and impede those negotiations to an unacceptable degree ... That would, in my view, be contrary to the interests of good government — which would, in turn, be contrary to the public interest."

LeMay's piece over at Delimiter does an excellent job of deconstruction the AGD's other reasons for censoring the FoL request, and if you're interested, I encourage you to take a look.

[Delimiter, thanks Justin]

Image: Vikas.


Comments

    I don't see how they could not have the names of the industry reps attending; and i don't think the names are exempt under 47c.
    I really don't like the idea of secret meeting alike this

    "be contrary to the interests of good government", good government? what? where?

    "a list of attendees… which doesn’t exist"

    As a former public servant, and frequent meeting secretary, I can tell you that this "explanation" is total bullshit. If not, then it is a deliberate attempt to subvert the FOI process. But don't for a moment think that the Liberals wouldn't do the same, or worse. Trust me, the media barons are scarier than the pirates, Somalian or otherwise.

      Have a look at the Australian Electoral Commission's periodic disclosures for which entities related to AFACT have donated money to what parties and how much. For several years running, copyright group members have been the largest donors to the ALP other than unions.

      The Libs might be worse, but I seriously doubt it. The copyright industry pours sackfuls of coin into the government's coffers, and the government owes them.

    "That would, in my view, be contrary to the interests of good government — which would, in turn, be contrary to the public interest."

    That's a good point - that makes it even more a pity that we don't have a good governments anymore.

    Part of the problem is that Australia is signatory to a number of treaties none of which, under law, allow for much, if any, public scrutiny.

    Note also that it doesn't appear that any government minister is explicitly directing those actions but the public service's senior legal representatives.

    Strange that we employ a Government with our tax to tell us what is in our best interest.

    Where's the transparency? I'd be happy just knowing what assortment of drugs, chemicals and hormones are put in the water. Of course its in my best interest to just take the medicine and not ask any questions.

      The roles have been reversed. We forget. The way government acts is as though you have a business, and you employ some staff to take care of some things. But then you, as the employer go in to ask what they have been up to and whats the direction of the company and they tell you that you are not classified to know. Look, just go back to the bank and get some money out and keep us paid ok? Or else we'll lock you up. We run this company now, you little bitch.

        So its pretty much like having a employee who is crap.....you can't sack them, because the process to sack them is long drawn, and takes a long time. Meanwhile, during the review period, they play nice so it looks like you don't have a reason to sack them......sounds like our government to me.

    i bet its just a cover up for a super awesome party. with blackjack. and hookers!

      Good point. I hadn't thought of that.

      Also booze. And more hookers.

        Booze? Hookers? Probably means Craig Thomson (MP) attended.. But don't worry taxpayers, he probably used a Union credit card

    Maybe nobody turned up for the meetings?

    What they are referring to in saying that investigations would be impeded is that with disclosure of discussion points and proper consultation and democratic process with the public, they government would be delayed in implementing a policy that we as a public will no doubt be horrified by. In saying that it's in our best interest it provides enough of a placebo for most people, who are predominately fairly inactive on issues of public rights, to sit back down and not do anything.

    I fear that soon enough, we won't have enough rights even to gain redacted copies of meeting notes, and even if we wanted to do something the process would be impossible to access.

    So having said that - what can we do about this?

    And their wondering why they were annihilated in QLD. This is typical of Labour and exactly what they complain about whilst in opposition. Bring on the Federal election.

    Hope all that voted for labour are happy with their decision.
    They have such contempt for those they are meant to represent and are so shady and underhanded you cannot trust them as far as you could throw them.
    There is no transparency and everything happens behind closed doors.
    Always has and always will be the same.

      Do you honestly think the liberals will be more supportive of peoples freedoms and rights; above and beyond that of big business and the almighty dollar? Don't be naive and use a bit of common sense. Liberal will sign away your rights faster than the speed of light. They couldn't give the slightest shite about public opinion. You would have to have your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears to be ignorant of Liberals' priorities.

        Internet filter, no liberal minister has come anywhere near even suggesting such an undemocratic POS idea. Yet Labor want to implement such a draconian system, I think they hands down win the contest for most contempt for the public out of the two major parties. Wouldn't surpeise me if certain factions within Labour are licking their lips and just trying to find a way to use possble new copyright proctection laws to backdoor a filter in with little to no public knowledge.

          Sorry but that's just crap. Plenty of liberal ministers would LOVE to see the filter in. Just look at the fact they refused to say they wouldn't do it. You honestly don't think te guy who refused RU 486 doesn't want a net filter?
          This is downright disgusting though. I had hoped roxon would be better... Nope worse YAY =S

    Here's her email address:

    [email protected]

    If she is intent on making deals that influence our interests behind our backs then she should be held accountable. Let her know what you think of her shady practices.

    She appeared to have some morals when she was dealing with the smoking issue, but clearly censorship and the media giants persuasive bank balance have eroded these morals to nothing.

      +1

      We can't do much, but it's something.

    What are they trying to hide?

    Why are they afraid of the general public?

    Is it unreasonable for the people to know what our representatives are up to?

    i don't think you really need the government to like say who attended the meeting. its pretty obvious who did. It's all a goddamn fake. Like Lenin said, look for the person who will benefit. And you will, uh, you know, you'll, uh, you know what I'm trying to say--

    Federal Labor, take note. The people of Queensland have emphatically stated they don't like secrecy and lies.
    The KGB style secrecy surrounding the "piracy meetings" is a totally unacceptable farce.
    For all we know, this government could be involved a corrupt process which panders to interests of big movie studios and other greed based institutions at the expense of human rights of Australian citizens.

    TRANSLATION:
    We untrustworthy snakes are selling out the Public who are our bosses to greedy companies who have and will donate lovely large sums of money to us and it would not be in our interests and the interests of the Greedy Media Companies to let the public know the truth until the legislation is passed and becomes law and it is too late for the public to object to it. We are the Govt and can do what we want, stuff you.

    What a bunch of pathetic deceitful grubs, email or write to them (PM, Attorney General, Communications Minister) and your local federal MP and let them know this behavior is not good enough and remind them you hired and pay them and you will sack them at the first possible chance.

    People power can win like it has in the past, but you have to be in it to win it. Qld's deceitful LaboUr Govt's decimation will be nothing compared to Federal LaboUr's total annihilation at the next election.
    And they will still blame everybody else but themselves.

    so what other secret meetings are they having...?

      Who cares?

      Just because it's on a paper that says downloads are bad mnkay doesn't mean squat!

      Piracy in mass effect and moving forward hard.
      Pollies all are POS, neither side is better then each other, just public image that the media spins out on,

      Pay to talk shit = them
      Talk shit to get payed = illegal

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