One month, no reply from VicPol Chief on AWU. 3 hours after complaint to Professional Standards we get a reply.
It was a simple request for an update after 3 years and 4 months of police investigating The AWU Scandal.
30+ days after my letter along with several chasers, public shaming and a follow up to police media, there was no response from the Victoria Police Chief.
This morning I lodged a complaint with Victoria Police Professional Standards Command about commissioner ASHTON's behaviour.
3 hours later the Commissioner's office found my original letter and produced a soviet style reply (below).
This unedifying episode has done nothing to build confidence in the administration of justice in Victoria under this Commisioner's watch.
The AWU Scandal involves major frauds totalling about $1m in current value. This website acts for you our readers in seeking out information about how your police are investigating these offences against you and your laws. Many of you have contributed directly to the investigation of these matters with professional and other useful insights. You have a right to know.
Up until December, 2014 there was no difficulty in eliciting information like this. Police were always responsive and helpful. The investigation was progressing towards an outcome. Most importantly, you were kept informed about the progress made on your behalf.
I am the complainant in this matter. I volunteered countless hours for the community working with detectives to have these major frauds cleared up. I have a right to feedback from police on the investigation of my complaint.
So here is Graham ASHTON's reply this morning.
9:52 AM (2 minutes ago)
Dear Mr Smith,
I write on behalf of the Chief Commissioner to acknowledge receipt of your recent email requesting information in relation to Operation Tendement.
Please note access to this information is subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. Accordingly, it will be necessary for you to either write a letter or complete the relevant application form and send it to the Freedom of information Office, Victoria Police, PO Box 913, Melbourne 3001, together with a cheque or money order for the FOI application fee of $27.20. Your letter should set out clearly the document(s) you require from Victoria Police, as well as providing sufficient detail to enable the document(s) you are seeking to be identified.
Dean Nicholls | Correspondence Manager| Chief Commissioner's Office | Victoria Police
telephone: (03) 9247 6878 | fax: (03) 9247 6869
address: Victoria Police Centre, Level 10 Tower 1, 637 Flinders Street, Docklands , VIC 3008 | DX 210096
If one of Commissioner Ashton's constables told a complainant in a burglary, child abduction or domestic violence investigation to submit an FOI application for a report on police progress, there would be hell to pay.
FOI processes are lengthy and costly. They canvass only documents that already exist.
Tendement is an open, operational investigation that has yet to result in the arrest or interview of offenders let alone charges. It is bordering on improper conduct for a Chief Commissioner's office to suggest that an FOI application during an operational investigation will find any papers that could be released without affecting the investigation or prosecution of offenders.
That's why police commissioners have advisors, media liaison officers and - prior to Victoria's Andrews Government - independent Chiefs of Staff. They are paid to tailor a statement or reply to a letter like ours in a way that keeps the public informed without affecting the work of the operational investigators or prosecutors.
Graham ASHTON is stonewalling. He is operating in a febrile environment with unions closely associated with the government that appointed him under criminal investigations. He is already under scrutiny for approving the insertion of Premier ANDREWS right hand man as his Chief of Staff. ASHTON must not be seen to be favouring or ignoring any stakeholder in these matters of significant public interest. Avoiding a response to letters like ours creates unnecessary and unhelpful suspicions and invites the question "Why? What do you have to hide?".
Police investigations of union corruption are always controversial. Requests for information like mine require a nuanced response from a senior officer - not the insult of a futile FOI process.
ASHTON should be on notice, his duty is to act without fear or favour, malice or ill will. He must not only act that way, he must be seen to act that way.
One practical way this Commissioner could deal with doubts about his allegiances would be to reform the way his office is managed, starting with his Chief of Staff, also known as Premier Andrews right hand man.
The perhaps he could let us know when the victims in The AWU Scandal can expect to see justice.