Windermere MLC claims fox files to be released

THREE secret Fox Eradication Program documents will be released, according to Windermere Independent MLC Ivan Dean.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday night, Mr Dean said he had received word that the Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Department had reversed its decision to withhold the documents from the public.

On Tuesday, Fairfax Tasmania revealed DPIPWE prevented the federal Environment Department from releasing three FEP progress reports, after an unnamed applicant applied for them under Freedom of Information laws.

DPIPWE argued their release could hurt Tasmania’s relationship with the Commonwealth, and claimed the reports were not in the public interest.

The federal Environment Department agreed and declined the release, despite the protest of the Office of Australia’s Information Commissioner.

A statement received by Mr Dean during the Legislative Council’s adjournment debate read: “Upon further review of the reports, the department communicated to the Commonwealth on September 20, that it had agreed to the reports being released.”

Mr Dean called the revelation an “absolute turn around”.

“What the hell is going on?” Mr Dean said.

“DPIPWE now believes there won’t be any damage between the state and the Commonwealth.”

A DPIPWE spokesman said the department did not issue the statement.

A federal Environment Department spokeswoman also denied knowledge of the statement.

On Monday, the Office of Australia’s Information Commissioner suggested it was investigating the Environment Department’s decision not to release the files.

During his speech, Mr Dean cited an investigation by Fairfax Tasmania earlier this year that revealed five flawed scats in the state’s fox evidence collection.

The revelation was followed by comments from a Victorian fox trapper earlier this month, who identified foam rubber inside two more scats as his own.

Foam rubber is used in fox traps to prevent jamming.

“I maintain the Fox Eradication Program is ‘highly sensitive’ because of the secrecy surrounding it,” Mr Dean said.

Police are considering an investigation into allegations of fraud in the FEP.

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