Media reporting of the recently published investigation report into VicForests’ handling of a series of freedom of information (FOI) requests by the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) is just another attempt to discredit VicForests said Deb Kerr, CEO of the Victorian Forest Products Association.
The process of handling a request for an FOI, made by a complainant regarding an alleged covert investigation of her ten years ago, was criticised by OVIC. It has stated in its report, among other things, that VicForests should have phoned the applicant to clarify her FOI request – noting several times in the report that the applicant had requested this in her email.
“Anyone who has ever submitted an FOI request would know these requests can be frustrating. It often takes several iterations over months to get to a decision. Government departments do this entirely via email to ensure a correct and proper evidence trail. Personally, I’ve never had a government department phone me despite requests to do so – and yet I have rung them to gain clarity on what they require to facilitate a successful FOI. If this is the new standard to manage FOIs, then every government department in every Australian jurisdiction will be in contravention.
This is another storm in a teacup at a time when we should be focusing on fixing the public policy debacle that prevents VicForests from harvesting native timber, securing timber supply, keeping workers in jobs, and keeping promises made by this government to native forestry until 2030,” Ms Kerr concluded.