MediaWatch last night
Shades of Nero fiddling - don't face up to the Pink Batts, the AWU Scandal, school halls, asylum seekers - or to summarise it all, the unimaginable incompetence

Someone needs to remind the PM and her staff that we pay them.

This research and the article that underpins it provide a useful insight into the Gillard/McTernan protocols.  Hedley Thomas is a master of investigative journalism and he has done us all a great service with this piece.   

It simply beggars belief that no government employee produced any briefing papers or received or replied to correspondence from journalists and others on the AWU Scandal.   Its a nonsense to suggest it and only someone who had no regard for their own credibility would try.

We pay the spin doctors and advisors, along with the Prime Minister.   Our laws provide for freedom-of-information for much of the business of government.   The Prime Minister's chief of staff claims that this is a private matter and thus beyond the reach of FOI laws.   Really?   It occupied the whole of question time for one week as well as two large-scale prime-ministerial press conferences.   

While Ms Gillard remains in the job of PM her response to The AWU Scandal will occupy her time and her staff's time.   We deserve to have our FOI laws honoured and to know how this administration is spending our money.  There is only one way Ms Gillard could legitimately make the Victoria Police investigation into her conduct a purely private matter - resign.


Gillard's office bats away FOI request

JULIA Gillard's office is blocking the release under Freedom of Information laws of a raft of documents generated by key staff and other taxpayer-funded officials last year in relation to the Australian Workers Union fraud scandal.

The documents include internal briefing papers, media-management strategies and correspondence with media executives and journalists. All of the material sought is directly related to the Prime Minister's handling of the controversy that dogged her in the second half of last year.

Several of Ms Gillard's most trusted advisers, including her communications director John McTernan, chief of staff Ben Hubbard and her then senior media adviser Sean Kelly, were directly involved in monitoring and managing fallout from the AWU revelations.

The staff research and advice also helped inform two media conferences, in August and November last year, in which Ms Gillard made statements and responded to questions about her role in providing legal advice to help her then client and boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, set up a union slush fund.

Ms Gillard has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said she had no knowledge of the workings of the AWU's Workplace Reform Association.

The Prime Minister's director of cabinet, Mathew Jose, has determined that no relevant documents sought under FOI would be made available to The Australian.

The Office of the Information Commissioner is now reviewing the decision by Mr Jose, who stated he was satisfied that "no official documents of a minister within the scope of your request exist in the possession of the Prime Minister or her office".

Under FOI guidelines, the term "official document of a minister" does not extend to personal documents, (such as bank statements) or documents of a party-political nature (such as a strategy for the upcoming election).

Mr Jose concluded that in relation to the AWU matters, "the documents, if they exist, would be personal documents in that they would directly relate to alleged events that predated the Prime Minister's election . . . and her subsequent appointment to ministerial office".

The Australian two months ago made an FOI request for "all documents relating to media management, policy and and general advice over matters concerning the Prime Minister and the Australian Workers Union/law firm Slater & Gordon" from June 1, 2012.

The request sought only material generated recently at public expense by staff in Ms Gillard's office. It asked for drafts of letters and email messages sent and received by the Prime Minister and her staff and external advisers to media outlets and executives, as well as talking points, drafts of speeches and internal question-and-answer notes.

The request sought documents about any advice on questions about any offences that may have been committed in the incorporation and use of the AWU Workplace Reform Association, or whether there have been any defamations of persons including the Prime Minister.

Ms Gillard has said she had been repeatedly defamed by suggestions she set up a slush fund, insisting that her role was limited to providing legal advice on the incorporation of the association.