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AAT ruling favours Shadow Attorney-General



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rcTcH KEITH NIP FEDERAL LIBERAL MEMBER F#R FLINDERS SHADOW ATTORNEY - GENERAL

AAT RULING FAVOURS SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL1 ^ J : T --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- COMMONW EALTH

PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY C. I. s.

The Opposition has won the first round in a test case on the operation of the FOI Act.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has today given a tentative indication to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that it is likely to allow the Shadow Attorney-General to proceed with an appeal on the grounds that the Minister has been deemed to have refused an FOI request for access to certain legal documents.

The request seeks copies of documents dealing with the legal implications of a preamble to a Bill recognising prior ownership and occupation of Australia by Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

The Shadow Attorney-General, Peter Reith, said today that, following attempts by the Minister, Gerry Hand, to "fob off" to the Aboriginal Affairs Department an FOI request for access to the legal documents, he had lodged an appeal on the grounds of the Minister's "deemed" refusal. The AAT

subsequently set the matter down for a preliminary hearing on 29 January at which time the Attorney-General1s Department argued that Ministers were to be immune from the operation of the FOI Act simply by passing on requests to the Department notwithstanding that this did.not conform with the express words of Section 16.

AAT Deputy President, Mr R.N. Todd, has allowed the Minister until 23 February to provide affidavit evidence in support of his position and has set the matter down for further hearing on 1 March.

The Government is likely to fight the case tooth and nail and appeal to the Federal Court in the event that the AAT formally allows the appeal to go ahead.

9 February 1988

Contact: Peter Reith

Telephone: (059) 79 3188