Wilson Tuckey lost his ministry for writing on ministerial letterhead over a speeding fine - how is Gillard's letter different?
You may recall Hedley Thomas's article in The Australian newspaper on 5 February, 2013 "PM's office bats away FOI request".
Hedley described his FOI application in that article:
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.
He described the response from the PM's cabinet office chief Mathew Jose:
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.
Mr Jose 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".
Personal? Really? This letter to the CEO of Fairfax looks to me as if it's come from the Prime Minister acting in an official capacity, not from the citizen Ms Julia Gillard safeguarding her personal reputation.
Just to repeat - 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".
What then is Ms Gillard doing using the official office of Prime Minister to advance her personal interests? If a policeman goes into a restaurant in uniform and gets a cheap or free meal because of being a copper, he'll have internal affairs all over him like a rash. Police and other persons in positions of authority can't use their appointment to intimidate others to their personal advantage. Police can't write letters to their bank on their own behalf on police letterhead - and it's crystal clear that Ministers of the Crown can't write letters on their official ministerial letterhead trying to get themselves or dependents off speeding tickets.
"'Wilson Tuckey, the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, was accused in 2003 of attempting to influence South Australia's Police Minister to quash a traffic fine incurred by his son, again by using a ministerial letterhead. Tuckey was demoted in a reshuffle following several calls for him to be sacked". source
You can't have it both ways Prime Minister. If this matter relates to your private conduct and is purely a personal affair, what are you doing using your office to accuse a publicly listed media company of "false and misleading" conduct? That during a time of a threatened media enquiry?