Richard Boyle raid
Benny Oates made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Taxation Office
This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.
Dear Australian Taxation Office,
In April 2018, the home of Richard Boyle was raided by the AFP and ATO. Please provide the following:
1. Search warrant
2. Application and/or affidavit for search warrant
3. Property seizure record or other list of things seized
4. Operational orders/tactical plan for the raid
Dear Australian Taxation Office,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of Australian Taxation Office's handling of my FOI request 'Richard Boyle raid'.
I accept that some parts of the documents may be exempt but it is clear that there would be some content which would not be exempt.
'Enforcement methods' would not extend to, for example, lists of things seized on a particular raid, nor to details of the suspected offences forming the basis of the warrant. Accordingly, the warrant could be released, as could at least part of the affidavit. To the extent that the execution of a search warrant is visible to the occupiers of the premises, media and/or members of the public on the street, those acts cannot constitute a confidential method. Accordingly, those parts of the operational plan could be released.
The 'personal information' exemption cannot apply to information that is already in the public domain, such as the fact that Mr Boyle was raided in connection with alleged inappropriate disclosure of government information. The remaining information in the document does not itself constitute personal information, for example precise details of the suspected offences including the specific statutes allegedly breached.
Based on public reporting so far, the criminal (as distinct from disciplinary) allegation appears to be unauthorised disclosure of government information contrary to section 70 of the Crimes Act. The information or documents apparently disclosed -- consisting of Mr Boyle's own performance evaluation, general information about what work the agency undertakes, and the 'hour of power' email (subsequently itself released under the FOI Act) -- do not prejudice investigations, breach privacy, or breach tax secrecy. Section 70 on its face applies to both spies and relatively innocuous 'leakers' who merely embarrass the government. Section 70 can only operate where another law creates an obligation not to disclose information, which in this case appears to be a reference to the Public Service Regulations. The current regulation is a re-write of an earlier regulation declared unconstitutional in Bennett's case in 2003, a case in which the court noted that -- on its face -- section 70 criminialised an officer telling their spouse what time their shift would end. The current regulation is materially indistinguishable to the one already declared invalid.
The following matters of public importance are raised by the apparent reliance on section 70:
(1) whether the government has resurrected a provision already struck out by the courts without seeking judicial endorsement;
(2) whether the government has adopted the practice of using an anti-espionage law to deter and punish the causing of embarrassment.
Furthermore, there is suggestion in the Four Corners program that a formal 'Public Interest Disclosure' (PID) was made. The PID Act is supposed to protect a whistleblower from raid and arrest, but that is what appears to have happened here. It will not be clear to a reasonably-minded would-be whistleblower whether and in what circumstances the PID Act will protect them. It is also not clear what liability journalists may incur by speaking with public servants. The freedom of the press and the efficacy of the PID regime are important, particularly in light of the recent parliamentary attention paid to the issue of whistleblower protection.
The above demonstrates that the exemptions are not engaged and, to the extent that they are, a strong public interest exists which justifies disclosure of some or all of the documents.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r...