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Child Protection - Right to Information Requests
Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for HUMAN SERVICES, Mrs PETRUSMA
The Greens' Safe Pathways right to information request was lodged on 22 November last year. It is now two and a half months overdue, with four different completion dates offered by your agency, four different RTI officers handling the request, and various colourful excuses provided for not delivering the information. The department did not seek an extension with the Ombudsman, presumably because they could not prove they needed one. The Ombudsman's office is investigating the unexplained delay, and the response from the secretary is well-overdue.
The leaked email chain last week makes it clear that you and the Premier's Office are involved in the protracted and unlawful process in relation to the ABC's Safe Pathways RTI.
Will you acknowledge that your department is in breach of the Right to Information Act and that your Government's attachment to secrecy is making agencies behave unlawfully? When will we receive the information we requested on how much public funding was paid to a for-profit provider that neglected children at risk?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. Let us be quite clear that it was the previous government that drafted the RTI act. The RTI act and the RTI process under this Government is exactly the same as it was under the previous government. Nothing has changed. Departmental RTI applications -
Madam SPEAKER - Order. There is no point in asking questions if you are not going to listen to the answers.
Mrs PETRUSMA - Departmental RTI applications come into departments and are assessed by independent RTI statutory officers. They are handled by departments in a process that is at arm's length from ministers. In my department, for example, my office is advised when an RTI application comes in, when it goes out, and when deadlines have been exceeded. I am advised it would be exactly the same process that happened under the previous government. The reason for progress reports is because ministers quite often get questions from the Opposition, or in this case, the Greens -
Ms O'Connor - Your Government is breaking the law.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. The minister does not need assistance. The minister will resume.
Mrs PETRUSMA - As the Premier has just outlined, as RTI expert Rick Snell said, I have not broken any rules. I reject any allegations that I have been manipulating RTIs. As I said, the RTI process is exactly the same as in the past. There has been no interference by me in the RTI process. The RTI process is subject to strict regulation and control and processes by independent RTI officers. That has not changed. There is no conspiracy here. Departmental RTIs are handled at arm's length from me by independent RTI statutory officers.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, and it goes to relevance under standing order 195. The question related specifically -
Madam SPEAKER - Standing order 195 does not apply to question time.
Ms O'CONNOR - The minister has not answered the question about whether her agency is in breach of the Right to Information Act, which we believe it is.
Madam SPEAKER - It is not a point of order because you are not even quoting the correct standing order. The minister will resume. I have ruled on this in the past.
Mrs PETRUSMA - The RTI process is the same as under the previous government.