DAVID ROOD AND JASON DOWLINGJune 2, 2010
PREMIER John Brumby’s office has refused to release media plans for the Premier and his ministers – similar to the document that sparked the Windsor Hotel scandal – on the grounds that they contain political material.
The Office of the Premier knocked back a freedom-of-information request from The Age for the media plans, ruling that the documents are exempt because they contain material unrelated to department business.
”All of the documents requested are exempt documents on the basis that they are official documents of a minister that contain material of a political nature which does not relate to the affairs of an agency or a department,” the decision by the Office of the Premier stated.
The ruling also stated it was ”not practicable” to release the documents with the exempt material deleted.
The Premier’s office would not reveal how many media plans exist or the titles of the documents.
A controversial leaked media plan, written by Planning Minister Justin Madden’s former press secretary, Peta Duke, suggesting the manipulation of public opinion over the Windsor Hotel development, has sparked an outcry and parliamentary inquiry.
Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman David Davis said the FOI response showed the Madden media plan was not an isolated document.
”This refusal is part of a cover-up from John Brumby’s office and is clearly designed to prevent the release of information,” he said.
However, the Premier’s spokeswoman, Fiona Macrae, said all of Mr Brumby’s and his ministers’ media engagements were on the public record and the media were free to report on them.
A parliamentary inquiry into the planning process behind the Windsor development heard yesterday from Government Architect Geoffrey London.
Professor London said he advised the Department of Planning in November 2009 that the Windsor development proposal ”offers a fully considered and exceptional outcome in terms of urban design and architectural design”.
He said he then called a meeting with Adrian Salmon and David Hodge from the department on December 17, 2009, to impress on them the importance of having conditions in any planning permit approval that ensured monitoring and high-quality work.
Professor London said there were no minutes of the meeting with Mr Salmon and Mr Hodge to indicate whether they had expressed a view on the Windsor development or if anyone else from the government attended the meeting.
”I have a vague recollection that there may have been someone else from DPC [Department of Planning], but … I can’t state that with certainty,” he said.
Mr Hodge is expected to appear before the committee in coming weeks and Mr Madden is expected to appear in the lead-up to the November state election.