Prime Minister’s Office “Cannot Find” Document on Sports Rorts Requested by Rex Patrick under JTF | Freedom of information

Independent Senator Rex Patrick condemned the PM’s Department for claiming it could not find a key letter from Christian Porter to Scott Morrison on the sports offenses case, a position apparently at odds with the Attorney General’s office , who fought to keep the document a secret.

Patrick has been fighting an access to information battle with the attorney general’s office for nearly two years, seeking access to a letter from the then attorney general to
the Premier on the administration of the community sport infrastructure program.

The Attorney General’s letter purports to provide legal advice to the Prime Minister on a particular aspect of the Auditor General’s damning report which found that the government had distributed $ 100 million in sports grants to promote “targeted” Coalition seats. in the May 2019 elections.

The request was denied on grounds of cabinet confidentiality and legal privilege, which Patrick disputed and took to the watchdog, the Australian Information Commissioner’s office.

While awaiting a decision, Porter resigned as attorney general and was replaced by Michaelia Cash.

Cash then claimed the document was not in the possession of his office, a common argument used to defeat freedom of information requests following cabinet shuffles.

Patrick decided to file a FOI request with the Prime Minister’s Department and Cabinet for the same document.

To its surprise, the ministry said it could not find the letter, although Porter’s office confirmed that it was sent to the Prime Minister and filed as a cabinet document.

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“The attorney general’s office, which acknowledged that the letter to the prime minister had been written, claimed it was a cabinet document,” said Patrick. “Cabinet documents are subject to strict controls, so it is really hard to believe that the Prime Minister’s Department and Cabinet cannot find them.

“Maybe they just don’t want to find him.”

Patrick intends to challenge the decision, first with a formal request for review.

“The letter is a key document in the sports crime scandal,” he said. “I guess the Prime Minister would be very happy if he was gone.”

The prime minister’s and cabinet’s department said it could only search for such documents in its own record-keeping systems.

“Document searches are being conducted in our own archives, not those of other agencies,” a spokesperson said.

“In cases like this, where a search is conducted and no relevant document is found, this decision is communicated to the requester in accordance with Section 26 of the FOI Act.”

Patrick has already won a major battle for freedom of information relating to firm confidentiality.

Earlier this year, he successfully argued in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that documents prepared for the national cabinet should not be excluded from FOIs for reasons of cabinet confidentiality.

Despite this, the government maintained its refusal to release national cabinet documents through the FOI.

Patrick went on to appoint two officials from the Prime Minister’s department and cabinet who had rejected requests for documents from the national cabinet, prompting Secretary Phil Gaetjens to accuse him of make personal attacks and demoralize officials.

Patrick said he was focusing “on the public service as a whole,” but said: “It’s the PM&C who the Information Commissioner says break freedom of information laws, it’s the PM&C officials inappropriately overturning a federal court ruling on the legal status of the national cabinet and it was PM&C that somehow lost an important document purported to be a cabinet document.

“For PM&C, this is the shoe that fits, so wear it.”

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