Australians for Honest Politics Trust

Margo Kingston made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Electoral Commission

The request was refused by Australian Electoral Commission.

From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Australian Electoral Commission,

As a member of the citizens journalism project Australians for Honest Politics I request all material touching upon the AEC's response to the revelation in 2003 that Tony Abbott had misled it in his 1998 letter in response to the AEC's request that he disclose his donors to the AHPT.

In view of the public interest in a transparent democracy I request that you provide the information requested free of charge.

Yours faithfully,

Margo Kingston

https://mobile.twitter.com/margokingston1

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Australian Electoral Commission

Thank you for contacting us.

This is an automatic response from the Australian Electoral Commission to confirm we have received your email.

For more information on enrolling to vote, federal elections or the AEC, visit www.aec.gov.au.

Please do not respond to this email.

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Henare Degan left an annotation ()

Mentioned in this article: http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012...

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to your email of 6 December 2012 4:52 PM to the Australian
Electoral Commission (.$B!F.(BAEC.$B!G.(B) in which you request under the
[1]Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the .$B!F.(BFOI Act.$B!G.(B) access to
the following documents:

all material touching upon the AEC's response to the revelation in 2003
that Tony Abbott had misled it in his 1998 letter in response to the AEC's
request that he disclose his donors to the AHPT

I take your reference to .$B!F.(BAHPT.$B!G.(B to be a reference to the
Australians for Honest Politics Trust.

I note that you have requested that the charges incurred in relation to
your request be waived under section 29(5)(b) of the FOI Act on the ground
that the giving of access to the documents in question is in the general
public interest or in the interest of a substantial section of the public.
In support of that request you say:

In view of the public interest in a transparent democracy I request that
you provide the information requested free of charge.

I will refer your request to the appropriate delegate for consideration
and inform you of the outcome in due course.

We received your request on 6 December 2012 and the 30 day statutory
period for processing requests means that you should therefore expect a
decision from us by 7 January 2012. However, the period of 30 days may
need to be extended if we need to consult third parties, if the decision
is made impose a charge or for other reasons.

I note that your application concerns documents that:

.$B!|.(B          may affect the business affairs of a person or an
organisation; and

.$B!|.(B          contain personal information about a person.

As regards the business affairs of a person or an organisation, section 27
of the FOI Act provides for circumstances in which an application is
received in respect of a person.$B!G.(Bs business or professional affairs
or the business, commercial or financial affairs of an organisation.  When
such applications are received, the person or organisation concerned must
be given a reasonable opportunity to make a submission contending that the
document is exempt under section 43 of the FOI Act.

As regards personal information about a person, the consultation mechanism
under section 27A of the FOI Act applies when we believe the individual
(or their representative) may wish to contend that the requested documents
are exempt for reasons of personal privacy. We will take into account any
comments we receive from the individual but the final decision about
whether to grant you access to the documents you requested rests with the
AEC.

If a decision is taken against waiving the charges, you will be notified
of any charges in relation to your request, before we process any
requested documents or impose a final charge.

You and the relevant individual, if dissatisfied with the AEC decision,
may seek an internal review or external review by the Information
Commissioner. This will be explained in detail when a decision is
notified.

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log at
[2]http://www.aec.gov.au/footer/foi.htm, subject to certain exceptions.
(For example, personal information will not be published where this would
be unreasonable.)

We will contact you using the email address
[3][FOI #32 email] that you provided. Please
advise if you would prefer us to use an alternative means of contact. If
you have any questions, please contact me (see below for my contact
details).

Yours sincerely

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services | Legal and Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: 02 6271 4528 | M: [not used]| F: 02 6271 4457

 

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This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission.$B!G.(Bs Chief Legal
Officer should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the
existence or content of any advice contained in this email to a third
party

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen,

Hi. I can't see that my request would effect the 'business affairs' or 'personal information' of Mr Abbott as his 1998 letter to you did not concern either, but related to his public duties.

Could you explain? I'm hoping my request can be dealt with quickly because it is straightforward and narrow.

Regards,

Margo

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

Hi. I can't see how documents covered by my request might effect Mr Abbott's 'business affairs' or contain 'personal information' about him. My request concerns his public duties and obligations. Could you explain the connection you make?

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Attachment LS4451 Letter to M Kingston Final 20121217.pdf
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For-Official-Use-Only

Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to your emails of 6 December 2012 4:52 PM and 14 December 2012
5:35 PM and 5:51 PM and my email of 11 December 2012 10:47 AM about this
matter.

Your request has been referred to Paul Pirani, Chief Legal Officer, for
consideration. I have attached a scanned copy of the Chief Legal
Officer.$B!G.(Bs letter to you today.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services | Legal and Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: 02 6271 4528 | M: [not used]| F: 02 6271 4457

 

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This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission.$B!G.(Bs Chief Legal
Officer should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the
existence or content of any advice contained in this email to a third
party

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

Hi. I'm not sure what to do now, as the AEC's letter seems to state that the AEC believes it was not misled by Mr Abbott's 1998 letter. but does not say how it came to form that view.

I refer you to the extract of my book recently published online by New Matilda (http://newmatilda.com/2012/12/13/did-ton... and to this passage:

'On Tuesday, 9 September 2003, I phoned Brien Hallett to inform him of Abbott’s admissions. He said he would "send it up the line".

Was the AEC finally asking Abbott the questions it failed to ask him in 1998? "I can’t give you a running commentary on what we’re doing," Hallett said, because the AEC didn’t want to broadcast its strategy. But he gave an assurance that the AEC was no longer just reading media reports and was actively investigating.

"We do take our accountability [to voters] very seriously," he said.

I asked what penalties there were for misleading the AEC. He checked with the experts and confirmed that misleading the commission would come under the Uniform Criminal Code. "We don’t have a view on whether he has misled," Hallett said. "We don’t have enough evidence. If you have particular information you can put that before us."

I wrote up the Abbott interview and published it on Webdiary. That was my evidence.'

*

What I am asking for is all material touching upon your response to my phone call with Mr Hallett, the publication of my evidence that Mr Abbott misled you in his 1998 letter, and the publication of my book which detailed that evidence. I trust this clarification will mean you will not start the time-clock again.

I am also a little confused about whether you must consult with Mr Abbott before complying with my request, and if so why you believe this is required by law. Could you clarify?

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to your email of 21 December 2012 11:21 AM about your freedom of
information request.

Turning first to the last paragraph of your email, you say that you are
confused about whether the AEC must consult with Mr Abbott. Mr Abbott is
but one of the persons whom the AEC will be obliged to consult about your
request.

I note that the breadth of your request will require the Australian
Electoral Commission (the ‘AEC’) to consult with persons other than Mr
Abbott. You have requested:

all material touching upon the AEC's response to the revelation in 2003
that Tony Abbott had misled it in his 1998 letter in response to the AEC's
request that he disclose his donors to the AHPT

You will recall that there was public interest in the topic at the time.
The AEC received a number of freedom of information requests from
interested persons on the topic.

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the ‘FOI Act’) at that time did not
contain section 11C which requires the publication by the AEC of documents
released under Part III of the FOI Act (subject to certain exceptions
listed in section 11C(1) of the FOI Act). It follows that the AEC cannot
assume that persons who made an FOI request in 2003-2004 had an
expectation that the fact that they made a request would be made public.
Further, those persons contacted by the AEC in its investigation of the
matter are also entitled to be consulted before release of information
relating to them. Likewise, Mr Abbott may have views about the disclosure
of his personal information and business affairs on the AEC website.

It is a matter for you whether you wish to narrow the breadth of your
request to exclude any of these classes of persons.

Turning now to the first paragraph of your email, I note that in the
context of your assertions, Mr Abbott can only have misled the AEC about
the Australians for Honest Politics Trust (the ‘Trust’) if the activities
of the Trust were required to be reported to the AEC under the
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the ‘CE Act’).

As you were informed by Mr Hallett, the AEC did undertake a further
investigation of the Trust’s obligation to report to the AEC in 2003 and
2004. Notices were issued to the trustees of the Trust, of which Mr Abbott
was one, under section 316 of the CE Act. Mr Abbott exercised his
statutory right under section 316(3B) of the CE Act to request the
Electoral Commission (i.e. the commissioners) to review the decision to
issue the notice to the trustees of the Trust. The Electoral Commission
obtained legal advice on the matter and concluded that the AEC did not
have reasonable grounds to issue a notice to the trustees in relation to
the Trust and as a consequence the decision to issue the notice was set
aside.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services | Legal and Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: 02 6271 4528 | M: [not used]| F: 02 6271 4457

 

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This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

In you note of December 24 you state: 'I note that in the context of your assertions, Mr Abbott can only have misled the AEC about the Australians for Honest Politics Trust (the ‘Trust’) if the activities of the Trust were required to be reported to the AEC under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the ‘CE Act’).'

So you are saying that because, as it turned out eventually, you found that Mr Abbott did not have to disclose his donors, he had no legal obligation to be truthful to you in his 1998 letter? Have you taken legal advice on the correctness of this view?

I note that Section 137.1 of the Uniform Criminal Code Act (1992) states that providing (materially) false or misleading information or documents in "compliance or purported compliance with a law of the Commonwealth" is a criminal offence carrying a penalty of imprisonment for 12 months. Is it the case that the AEC does not have the legal authority to request information so that it can DETERMINE whether disclosure is required? If that is the case, then it has no power at all, really.

I also not that after a review in 2003, the AEC did find that Mr Abbott should disclose. Therefore, even on your reasoning, the question of whether he had misled the AEC in 1998 and the consequences of that would have been in play.

In any event, I look forward to receiving the documents as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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Michal Petelczyc left an annotation ()

Keep up the good work Margo. It's obvious the mandarins within the AEC are covering their butts in case Abbott gets elected.

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Megan Stuart left an annotation ()

You show remarkable tenacity Margo. So good to have you back among us!

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Adam Browne left an annotation ()

keep up the good work, Margo - this is a lovely postChristmas present for us all

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Laurie Kidd left an annotation ()

Keep up the great work, Margo. Surely in a democracy, the population is entitled to know the truth of what took place on the part of Mr Abbott,

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OzEquitist left an annotation ()

What information does ASIC have re this Trust that may be relevant to this public interest case - such as entity registration, disclosures, returns, winding-up & de-registration. Also, is there any evidence out there of donors to this Trust seeking to claim tax any deduction/s?

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

Further to your latest note, as published on Webdiary and in my book I am particularly interested in your investigations into whether Mr Abbott breached s 137.1 of the Uniform Criminal Code. On my reading, this would have nothing to do with whether or not he had disclosure obligations. http://www.findlaw.com.au/articles/5038/....

Rather, the elements of the offence are that a person knowingly gave false or misleading information to a Commonwealth entity.

As you are aware, I cited this section to Mr Hallett in our 2003 phone call, and he confirmed that misleading info came under the Uniform Criminal Code.

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

Link to this

From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to your emails of 24 December 2012 12:40 PM and 27 December 2012
7:41 PM (appended).

As regards the second paragraph of your email of 24 December 2012 12:40
PM, you will note from my signature block that I am a senior lawyer in the
employ of the Australian Electoral Commission (‘AEC’).

As regards the third paragraph of your email of 24 December 2012 12:40 PM,
the AEC does not give specific legal advice to the public. Therefore I am
unable to respond to your request. However I am referring the question of
the general application of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the ‘CE
Act’) on this topic to the appropriate AEC spokesperson for consideration.

Requests about the general operation of the CE Act may be directed to the
AEC’s media contacts notified at
[1]http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Contact_....

As regards the first sentence of the fourth paragraph of your email of 24
December 2012 12:40 PM, in conformity with the [2]Legal Services
Directions, 2005, the AEC should not express an opinion about legislation
administered by another Commonwealth agency, in this case the
Attorney-General’s Department. You should direct your inquiry to that
Department.

Turning now to the second sentence of the fourth paragraph of your email,
my response to the second paragraph of your email applies to your
question.

As regards the fifth paragraph of your email of 24 December 2012 12:40 PM,
I note that it is argumentative. This is a matter for the delegate to
consider when determining the question as to what access, if any, to
documents can be given in response to your request.

As regards the final paragraph of your email of 24 December 2012 12:40 PM,
I note that you have not responded to Mr Pirani’s letter of 21 December
2012 which requested the undertaking of a request consultation process in
accordance with section 24AB of the [3]Freedom of Information Act 1982
(the ‘FOI Act’). Your email of 21 December 2012 11:21 AM indicates that
your received Mr Pirani’s letter that day, which means that the 14 day
period for the request consultation process period expires on 4 January
2012. If you do not participate in the request consultation process then
your request may be refused in accordance with section 24(1)(b) of the FOI
Act.

I do not take your email of 27 December 2012 7:41 PM as a response to Mr
Pirani’s letter of 21 December 2012. The reason why I have formed this
view is that the AEC has no role in investigating offences against the
[4]Criminal Code. Where in the course of administering provisions of the
CE Act, the AEC becomes aware of a possible offence against the Criminal
Code, the AEC refers the matter to the Australian Federal Police (the
‘AFP’) for investigation and the decision whether a prosecution should be
initiated is taken by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in
light of a brief of evidence provided by the AFP. As explained in Mr
Pirani’s letter of 21 December 2012, the AEC never formed a view on
whether there had been a possible offence against the Criminal Code by Mr
Tony Abbott in relation to the operation of the Australians for Honest
Politics Trust. It follows that there was no referral of the matter to the
AFP.

The AEC remains unable, without more information from you, to identify
documents that meet the specification in your request.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services | Legal and Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: 02 6271 4528 | M: [not used]| F: 02 6271 4457

 

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This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

Yes I agree to the request consultation process.

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

In the light of your most recent note, I ask for all documents mentioning or referring to the allegation that Mr Abbott did not tell the AEC the truth about his 'legal advice' in his 1998 letter - from the date I brought the matter to the attention of Mr Hallett in 2003 to the present.

Please advise whether this clarification comes within the scope of this FOI or whether I need to lodge a new request.

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to your email of 2 January 2013 4:34 PM addressed to the three
Commissioners of the Australian Electoral Commission (‘AEC’) and your
email to me of 3 January 2013 9:16 AM. Your emails were referred to Mr
Paul Pirani, Chief Legal Officer who is the relevant delegate for this
matter. I enclose a scanned version of Mr Pirani’s letter to you dated 3
January 2013 in reply to your emails.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services | Legal and Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: 02 6271 4528 | M: [not used]| F: 02 6271 4457

 

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This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

In reply to your email today. I advise that I did not email the Commissioners about my FOI request. I used information obtained during correspondence about my FOI to seek their advice on whether the Commission had ‘never formed a view on whether there had been a possible offence against the Criminal Code by Mr Tony Abbott in relation to the operation of the Australians for Honest Politics Trust’. If it had not, I also asked whether the Commission was prepared to form a view on the matter. I look forward to their response.

In relation to the status of my current request, does the clarification I made in my January 3 email satisfy your requirement? ‘I ask for all documents mentioning or referring to the allegation that Mr Abbott did not tell the AEC the truth about his 'legal advice' in his 1998 letter - from the date I brought the matter to the attention of Mr Hallett in 2003 to the present’.

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to your email of 3 January 2013 5:54 PM about your FOI request.

I note from the thread appended to your email that you are addressing my
email to you of 2 January 2013 11:26 AM and not my email of 3 January 2013
11:21 AM.

My email of 3 January 2013 11:21 AM forwarded Mr Pirani’s letter to you of
3 January 2012 which indicated what was required to make the consultation
process successful in identifying the documents required. Please address
Mr Pirani’s letter in completing the consultation.

You will recall that Mr Pirani in his letter to you of 17 December 2012
sought your views whether you wished to extend the consultation period to
11 January 2013. You have never expressed you views on an extension. Do
you wish to take advantage of the extension?

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services | Legal and Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: 02 6271 4528 | M: [not used]| F: 02 6271 4457

 

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This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

Yes I wish to take advantage of the extension.

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

I refer to your email of 4 January in which you direct me to respond to the matters raised by Mr Pirani in his letter of 3 January in clarifying my request. Mr Pirani had asked me to frame my FOI request by identifying the relevant statutory function of the AEC and the facts I consider give rise to a suspicion that Mr Abbott misled the AEC in relation to that function.

I am somewhat surprised that I am being asked to frame my request in terms that refer to Mr Abbott misleading the AEC when you and Mr Pirani have made clear in several of your responses that you are finding unhelpful references to the AEC being misled.

I therefore reframe my request, to respond to those concerns, as follows:
-- all documents mentioning or referring to the assertion by Mr Abbott in his 1998 letter that he had sought legal advice before seeking donations to the Trust, and all documents mentioning or referring to allegations later made publicly (in 2003& 2004, and again in 2007) that that statement was untrue.

Please let me know if this does not sufficiently identify the documents sought.

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Dear Ms Kingston

I enclose a scanned version of the letter to you from the Chief Legal
Officer, Mr Paul Pirani dated 29 January 2013.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services | Legal and Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: 02 6271 4528 | M: [not used]| F: 02 6271 4457

 

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This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party

show quoted sections

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Julie left an annotation ()

I note that the last correspondence Margo sent was on 6th Jan (I think) and they have requested an additional 30 days to reply (provided no appeal is launched). This would mean a response should have been sent on 5th Feb. Hopefully we will hear something from Margo very soon. Would be good to know even if there is no response yet.

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Margo Kingston left an annotation ()

The AEC wants to charge me big bucks to release documents. I have referred the matter to a lawyer for advice on how to respond. Margo Kingston

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Graham Arnold left an annotation ()

$837 !! - so not really FREE dom of information.
19 people following this so far - if it comes to it that's less than $50 each - even if one follower is TA or his office!

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Laurie Kidd left an annotation ()

I am prepared to go along with Graham Arnold's suggestion if need be but in the interests of democracy, should be made available to Margo free or nominal cost only.

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

I have sought legal advice on how to respond to your latest communication,

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Dear Ms Kingston

I enclose a scanned copy of the letter from Mr Paul Pirani, Chief Legal
Officer, dated 12 March 2012 notifying you of the decision that he made
about your freedom of information request.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services Section | Legal & Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: (02) 6271 4528 | F: (02) 6271 4457

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[1]Australian Electoral Commission logo [2]Australian Electoral
Commission

This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party.

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Alex Sadleir left an annotation ()

The FOI officer in this case has chosen to mention various aspects of the applicant's identity (is writing a book, has applied previously causing "unnecessary trouble" etc.). The Australian Federal FOI Act differs from many others around the world in that it is "applicant blind":
s11(2) A person’s right of access is not affected by: (a) any reasons the person gives for seeking access; or (b) the agency’s or Minister’s belief as to what are his or her reasons for seeking access.

When the FOI officer repeated the charges from 2004, they forgot to deduct the 5 hours free decision making time that exists post 2010. http://www.oaic.gov.au/publications/guid...
The agency also intends to charge for postage, but as the Act says (as quoted on page 8) the actions must be taken at lowest reasonable cost (ie. email). The Act goes further to say that if you requested that the documents be provided electronically and that was not possible, "the applicant shall not be required to pay a charge in respect of the provision of access to the document that is greater than the charge that he or she would have been required to pay if access had been given in the form requested." s20(4)

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Julie left an annotation ()

After reading (some of) this response, I think it's time to get more people behind this. Any suggestions as to how we can get more people to follow the Right To Know - Australians for Honest Politics Blog?
Perhaps Margo could draft up a brief article on how this all got started and what's happening with the AEC. We can start posting on social media or emailing to supporters to ask them to follow the blog. People power might be the best option now!

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Sensitive:Legal

Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to our telephone conversation yesterday when you inquired whether
the Australian Electoral Commission (‘AEC’) would agree to receive a
submission from you in relation to the imposition of a charge for access
in accordance with your freedom of information request in relation to the
Hon Tony Abbott MP and the Australians for Honest Politics Trust. Your
submission is out of time since the time for making it passed on 8 April
2013 and the application was taken as withdrawn.

I have discussed your request with the delegate who has indicated that he
cannot on the basis of you telephone call make a decision to extend time
for making your submission. He asks that you write setting out your
reasons for making the submission out of time and at the same time set out
the submission about the charges that you wish to make.

As regards you submission for an extension of time you should provide an
acceptable explanation of the delay that shows that it is fair and
equitable in the circumstances to extend time. This should address the
fairness in reopening your request in circumstances where the AEC
undertook a request consultation with a person whose interests were
affected by your request. The submission should be provided to the AEC by
19 April 2013.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services Section | Legal & Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: (02) 6271 4528 | F: (02) 6271 4457

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Commission

This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party.

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

Hi. My reason for not replying to you earlier was that I misread your decision letter, mistakenly believing that I had until April 12 to seek a remission or waiver of fees, when the time to lodge an internal review expired. I discovered my mistake when preparing my request on April 11.

I apologise for this error and advise that should my request for an extension of time not be granted I will lodge a fresh FOI in the terms upon which we agreed in this one, so your consultation with a third party would not be in vain. I also advise that should you reject my arguments for remission or waiver of fees I will raise the funds to pay you, assisted by a Twitter appeal.

My reasons for seeking a remission of fees are:

* You have charged the same amount as for my 2004 request, which you have decided was substantially the same. However the charging regime has changed since 2004, and I question whether you have taken the changes into account.

* It is unreasonable that you prepared a schedule of documents when you estimated that only 5 percent of the documents on file were relevant. I therefore request that your charge of $530 be remitted. A glance at most files would have shown they were not relevant, and the Act requires that the decision maker act in the most efficient and practical way possible. Since you have prepared a schedule I ask that it be released to me.

* You have charged $60 for three hours of decision making. My understanding is that under the Act the first 5 hours of decision making are free.

My reasons for disagreeing with your decision not to waive fees are:

* The reason that I did not pursue my 2004 request was that the AEC communicated its decision after the deadline for my book had passed. I noted in my book that the AEC had failed to meet its legal deadlines for processing several FOI requests, without explanation. You are therefore incorrect to state that that I had circumvented the Act’s requirements by renewing my application after it had lapsed ‘to avoid paying charges imposed on the giving of access’. In fact, I made my current request in response to Mr Abbott’s allegations that the Prime Minister had showed bad character in her dealings with the AWU slush fund.

* The public interest in this matter is not about whether the AEC should have taken action about Mr Abbott’s statements in his 1998 letter as you suggest. It is about the honesty and credibility of Mr Abbott, which is a key issue in the forthcoming federal election.

* The issue of financial gain does not arise in this request because I have not made it for a book or other commercial purpose.

* I will suffer financial hardship if I have to pay, as I have minimal income and am living off my savings.

In relation to the documents you found which meet the terms of my request, I note that there are no documents which indicate that the AEC has any record of my 2004 allegations that Mr Abbott did not tell the truth in relation to the timing of his legal advice on the AFHP trust. May I take it from this that the AEC officer I spoke to made no note or other record of our telephone conversation, and that the AEC has no note of the contemporaneous story published in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Webdiary on the matter or Mr Abbott's published reply or the detailed account in the relevant chapter in my 2004 book Not Happy, John?

As you know, your Mr Hallett told me in the 2004 conversation that he would ‘send it up the line’. Am I right in assuming that, in the absence of any documentation, this did not occur?

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Sensitive:Personal

Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to you email of 12 April 2013 11:47 AM seeking an extension of
time in which to make a submission that the charges notified to you should
be changed.

I note in your email you stated the reason for your delay in making the
submission in the following terms:

I misread your decision letter, mistakenly believing that I had until
April 12 to seek a remission or waiver of fees, when the time to lodge an
internal review expired. I discovered my mistake when preparing my request
on April 11.

I note that you did not respond to my suggestion in my email to you of
12/04/13 10:25 AM that your reasons should provide:

an acceptable explanation of the delay that shows that it is fair and
equitable in the circumstances to extend time. This should address the
fairness in reopening your request in circumstances where the AEC
undertook a request consultation with a person whose interests were
affected by your request.

As a consequence the delegate had no basis on which to find that you had
offered an acceptable explanation of the delay. Further, when taking into
account the lack of fairness in re-opening your request as regards the
interests of the person consulted by the Australian Electoral Commission
in relation to your request, it seems unreasonable to accede to your
request to extend time for making a submission about the charges.
Accordingly your request for an extension was refused by the delegate.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services Section | Legal & Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: (02) 6271 4528 | F: (02) 6271 4457

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Commission

This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party.

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From: Margo Kingston

Delivered

Dear Owen Jones,

HI. Am I able to get the documents if I pay the charge or do I have to make a new request?

Yours sincerely,

Margo Kingston

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Sensitive:Legal

Dear Ms Kingston

I refer to your email of 15 April 2013 4:40 PM about this matter.

As mentioned in my email of 12 April 2013 10:25 AM your submission is out
of time since the time for making it passed on 8 April 2013 and the
application was taken as withdrawn. As your application for an extension
of time to make a submission was refused as explained in my email of 15
April 2013 4:40 PM (appended), it follows that you need to either seek an
Information Commissioner review (as mentioned in Mr Pirani’s letter to you
of 12 March 2013) or make a fresh application.

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services Section | Legal & Compliance Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: (02) 6271 4528 | F: (02) 6271 4457

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1]Australian Electoral Commission logo [2]Australian Electoral
Commission

This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party.

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Laurie Kidd left an annotation ()

Geez talk of FOI (not

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Julie left an annotation ()

This just looks like red tape and stalling to me. What are they trying to cover up? Why are they making it so hard? I feel there is an ulterior motive...and certainly not in the interest of the people. The very core of this inquiry is about honesty and transparency from our politicians and yet we are seeing none of this from the AEC. Perhaps it's time we all write a letter to them!

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Margo Kingston left an annotation ()

I have made a new request - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/a...

I would appreciate follows as it is a big help and doesn't make me feel so alone in this process.

Thanks for looking over my shoulder - the AEC is still very hard to deal with after all these years.

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Things to do with this request

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