Environment Department silent on Tasmanian fox files

THE federal Environment Department has dodged questions about why it withheld three Fox Eradication Program (FEP) documents, despite protest from Australia’s information watchdog.

The department kept three FEP progress reports from an unnamed Freedom of Information applicant earlier this month, after receiving advice from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE).

DPIPWE told the Environment Department that publication of the documents would hurt Tasmania’s relationship with the Commonwealth.

DPIPWE changed its mind on Tuesday and the files were released, however, after Fairfax Tasmania published an article.

DPIPWE would not explain its U-turn on Thursday, and the Environment Department is yet to respond to a series of questions asked on Monday.

Fairfax Tasmania asked the Environment Department:

  • Why the Office of Australia’s Information Commissioner become involved in the FOI request?
  • Why the documents shouldn’t be released?
  • Why the progress reports were considered confidential?
  • Why a confidentiality clause was signed by the department and DPIPWE?
  • If the department is satisfied the information given to it by DPIPWE to justify the continuation of FEP funding was accurate and fully compliant with the contract conditions?
  • If the department is working with Tasmania Police to investigate allegations of fraud within the FEP?
  • Who is responsible for determining if the contract conditions and outcomes specified for FEP funding have been met by the state government?
  • If contract details are kept secret, what mechanism is there for the Australian public to scrutinise how public money is being used and if the money is being used in the public interest?
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