Attorney-General George Brandis has lost an appeal to keep his ministerial diary private, after a long-running dispute which began in 2014 with his Labor nemesis Mark Dreyfus.
Mr Brandis’ diary has been the subject of scrutiny since he made a number of major policy decisions in 2014 that took funds away from environmental defenders’ offices, as well as legal and art communities, without proper consultation.
The defunded organisations claimed they could not secure an appointment with Mr Brandis so they could discuss these cuts, which set shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, QC, on a mission to discover why Mr Brandis didn’t spare the time to consult with the affected groups.
“I think it’s very important that the Attorney-General or any minister personally meet with people who are affected by the decisions taken in his or her portfolio,” said Mr Dreyfus. “That’s the practice I adopted when I was attorney-general and it’s a practice I expect of all Commonwealth ministers.”
A long-running Freedom of Information (FOI) dispute ensued, culminating in the Full Court of the Federal Court in Sydney ruling against Senator Brandis’ claims that exposing his diary would interfere with his office’s daily duties and threaten his personal safety.
The diary must now be released, although not immediately. Mr Brandis now says that before he can disclose the contents of his diary, hundreds of hours of processing time will need to take place.
The Commonwealth has also been ordered to pay court costs, which will, in turn, cost Australian taxpayers around $50,000.
Mr Dreyfus expressed his satisfaction at the court’s decision, saying: “I hope [Senator Brandis] learnt a lesson from this. He’s now cost the Australian taxpayer well in excess of $50,000.
Mr Brandis is reported to be considering another appeal against the ruling.
“I call on Senator Brandis to now say definitively that he will not be wasting further taxpayer money by going on to the High Court of Australia, which he could potentially do. Instead, he should expeditiously process this request, which was always a simple request.”
A spokesperson for Mr Brandis says that the Attorney-General will now consider the court’s decision and its “implications for Government”.
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Do you wonder what Mr Brandis may be hiding in his diary? Is he within his rights to appeal the ruling, even if it were to cost the Australian taxpayer even more money?