Tim Wilson, the IPA and the Liberal Party

Nil made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Human Rights Commission

Response to this request is delayed. By law, Australian Human Rights Commission should normally have responded promptly and by (details)

From: Nil

Delivered

Dear Australian Human Rights Commission,

I am writing to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Tim Wilson served as Human Rights Commissioner from February 2014 until February 2016. Before that time he was a Policy Director for the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) – a far right wing lobby group closely aligned with the Liberal Party.

Tim Wilson is currently facing a range of a corruption allegations relating to his conduct as a Member of Parliament (see, for example, here: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/politic....

Mr Wilson’s appointment as Human Rights Commissioner was part of a slew of political appointments made by the current Government of persons affiliated with the Liberal Party and the IPA.

For example, John Lloyd, left his job as a Director of the IPA and cancelled his membership of the Liberal Party to take up the job of Australian Public Service Commissioner in 2014 after being appointed to that position by the Government. He was subsequently found to be corrupt by the Merit Protection Commissioner in August 2018. Mr Lloyd has since returned to employment at the IPA.

Another example is Nigel Hadgkiss, who I undertsand is also closely affiliated with the IPA and the Liberal Party. Mr Hadgkiss took up the job as Director of the Fair Work Building Inspectorate and subsequently the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner after being appointed to those roles by the current Government. Mr Hadgkiss was subsequently found to be corrupt by the Federal Court in 2017.

In accordance with its obligations, including under the Archives Act 1983, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) should have retained, and will have access to, the contents of Mr Wilson’s AHRC issued email account.

Under the FOI Act, I seek access to any emails contained in all of Tim Wilson’s AHRC issued email account (including deleted items) that contain any of the following terms (in the body of an email and/or in the addressee fields of an email): “liberal.org.au” or “ipa.org.au”.

Relevant documents can be quickly identified by searching “All Outlook Items” in Mr Wilson’s email client for the terms “liberal.org.au” or “ipa.org.au”.

I’m happy to provide further information that goes to the public interest in the information the subject of my request upon request or in response to a notice issued under subsection 29(1) of the FOI Act.
Thanks

Link to this

From: Freedom of Information
Australian Human Rights Commission

To whom it may concern,

The Australian Human Rights Commission has begun processing your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act).

You requested access to emails contained in Tim Wilson's email account (including deleted items) that contain the terms "liberal.org.au" or ''ipa.org.au".

Under the FOI Act, the Commission has until 11 March 2019 to make a decision in relation to your request.

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions relating to your request for documents.

Kind regards,

Stephanie Abi-Hanna
Paralegal
Legal Section
Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 175 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9284 9635 F +61 2 9284 9611
E [email address] W www.humanrights.gov.au

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land,
the Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, and pay
our respects to their Elders, past, present and future.

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission


Attachment image001.jpg
14K Download

Attachment FOI factsheet 11 your rights business personal information requests.pdf
681K Download View as HTML


Dear FOI Applicant

 

My name is Hashini and I am a senior lawyer in the Legal section at the
Australian Human Rights Commission. I am currently considering your FOI
request which was sent to the Commission via email dated 6 February 2019.

 

All of the documents that fall within the scope of your FOI request
contains the personal information of third parties. Under section 27A of
the FOI Act, if an FOI request is made to an agency for access to a
document containing personal information about a person, and it appears to
the agency that the person might reasonably wish to make a contention in
relation to the information being conditionally exempt and disclosure
being contrary to the public interest, the agency must give the person
concerned a reasonable opportunity to make submissions. I attach a fact
sheet discussing this process, in case you would like further information
about this obligation.  

 

We have determined that the third parties who’s personal information is
contained in the documents which fall within your FOI request might
reasonably wish to make an exemption contention.

 

This obligation to consult means that the time for making a decision in
relation to your FOI request is extended by a further 30 days, pursuant to
section 15(6) of the FOI Act. 

 

A decision on your FOI request is therefore now due by 8 April 2019.

 

Kind regards,

Hashini

 

Hashini Panditharatne

Senior Lawyer

Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9284 9712
E [1][email address] | W [2]humanrights.gov.au

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land,

the Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, and pay

our respects to their Elders, past, present and future.
[3]Title: Everyone's Business project logo - Description: Everyone's
Business - national workplace sexual harassment inquiry

[4]For more information or to have your say, [5]click here

[6]For 2018 survey results Everyone's Business: 4th National Sexual
Harassment survey

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. file:///tmp/humanrights.gov.au
3. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
4. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
5. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
6. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...

Link to this

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission


Attachment image001.jpg
14K Download


Dear FOI Applicant

 

I refer to my below email. My apologies, but the new date that your FOI
decision is due is 10 April 2019 and not 8 April 2019.

 

Kind regards,

Hashini

 

Hashini Panditharatne

Senior Lawyer

Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9284 9712
E [1][email address] | W [2]humanrights.gov.au

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land,

the Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, and pay

our respects to their Elders, past, present and future.
[3]Title: Everyone's Business project logo - Description: Everyone's
Business - national workplace sexual harassment inquiry

[4]For more information or to have your say, [5]click here

[6]For 2018 survey results Everyone's Business: 4th National Sexual
Harassment survey

 

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Sent: Wednesday, 6 March 2019 3:33 PM
To: '[FOI #5248 email]'
<[FOI #5248 email]>
Subject: Your FOI Request [DLM=Sensitive:Legal]

 

Dear FOI Applicant

 

My name is Hashini and I am a senior lawyer in the Legal section at the
Australian Human Rights Commission. I am currently considering your FOI
request which was sent to the Commission via email dated 6 February 2019.

 

All of the documents that fall within the scope of your FOI request
contains the personal information of third parties. Under section 27A of
the FOI Act, if an FOI request is made to an agency for access to a
document containing personal information about a person, and it appears to
the agency that the person might reasonably wish to make a contention in
relation to the information being conditionally exempt and disclosure
being contrary to the public interest, the agency must give the person
concerned a reasonable opportunity to make submissions. I attach a fact
sheet discussing this process, in case you would like further information
about this obligation.  

 

We have determined that the third parties who’s personal information is
contained in the documents which fall within your FOI request might
reasonably wish to make an exemption contention.

 

This obligation to consult means that the time for making a decision in
relation to your FOI request is extended by a further 30 days, pursuant to
section 15(6) of the FOI Act. 

 

A decision on your FOI request is therefore now due by 8 April 2019.

 

Kind regards,

Hashini

 

Hashini Panditharatne

Senior Lawyer

Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9284 9712
E [7][email address] | W [8]humanrights.gov.au

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land,

the Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, and pay

our respects to their Elders, past, present and future.
[9]Title: Everyone's Business project logo - Description: Everyone's
Business - national workplace sexual harassment inquiry

[10]For more information or to have your say, [11]click here

[12]For 2018 survey results Everyone's Business: 4th National Sexual
Harassment survey

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. file:///tmp/humanrights.gov.au
3. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
4. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
5. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
6. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
7. mailto:[email address]
8. file:///tmp/humanrights.gov.au
9. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
10. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
11. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
12. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...

Link to this

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission


Attachment image001.jpg
14K Download


Dear FOI Applicant

 

I refer to my below emails, and to your FOI request made on 6 February
2019.

 

The Commission has been considering your request. As your request
currently stands, I believe there would be a practical refusal reason for
the Commission to refuse to process your request. I would like to discuss
the request to attempt to narrow it in a manner that would allow us to
process it.

 

Can you please ring me on 02 9284 9712 as soon as possible to discuss.
Alternatively, if you send me your best contact phone number and a good
time for me to call, I am happy to do so.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hashini Panditharatne

Senior Lawyer

Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9284 9712
E [1][email address] | W [2]humanrights.gov.au

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land,

the Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, and pay

our respects to their Elders, past, present and future.
[3]Title: Everyone's Business project logo - Description: Everyone's
Business - national workplace sexual harassment inquiry

[4]For more information or to have your say, [5]click here

[6]For 2018 survey results Everyone's Business: 4th National Sexual
Harassment survey

 

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Sent: Wednesday, 6 March 2019 4:20 PM
To: [FOI #5248 email]
Subject: RE: Your FOI Request [DLM=Sensitive:Legal]

 

Dear FOI Applicant

 

I refer to my below email. My apologies, but the new date that your FOI
decision is due is 10 April 2019 and not 8 April 2019.

 

Kind regards,

Hashini

 

Hashini Panditharatne

Senior Lawyer

Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9284 9712
E [7][email address] | W [8]humanrights.gov.au

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land,

the Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, and pay

our respects to their Elders, past, present and future.
[9]Title: Everyone's Business project logo - Description: Everyone's
Business - national workplace sexual harassment inquiry

[10]For more information or to have your say, [11]click here

[12]For 2018 survey results Everyone's Business: 4th National Sexual
Harassment survey

 

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Sent: Wednesday, 6 March 2019 3:33 PM
To: '[FOI #5248 email]'
<[13][FOI #5248 email]>
Subject: Your FOI Request [DLM=Sensitive:Legal]

 

Dear FOI Applicant

 

My name is Hashini and I am a senior lawyer in the Legal section at the
Australian Human Rights Commission. I am currently considering your FOI
request which was sent to the Commission via email dated 6 February 2019.

 

All of the documents that fall within the scope of your FOI request
contains the personal information of third parties. Under section 27A of
the FOI Act, if an FOI request is made to an agency for access to a
document containing personal information about a person, and it appears to
the agency that the person might reasonably wish to make a contention in
relation to the information being conditionally exempt and disclosure
being contrary to the public interest, the agency must give the person
concerned a reasonable opportunity to make submissions. I attach a fact
sheet discussing this process, in case you would like further information
about this obligation.  

 

We have determined that the third parties who’s personal information is
contained in the documents which fall within your FOI request might
reasonably wish to make an exemption contention.

 

This obligation to consult means that the time for making a decision in
relation to your FOI request is extended by a further 30 days, pursuant to
section 15(6) of the FOI Act. 

 

A decision on your FOI request is therefore now due by 8 April 2019.

 

Kind regards,

Hashini

 

Hashini Panditharatne

Senior Lawyer

Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9284 9712
E [14][email address] | W [15]humanrights.gov.au

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land,

the Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, and pay

our respects to their Elders, past, present and future.
[16]Title: Everyone's Business project logo - Description: Everyone's
Business - national workplace sexual harassment inquiry

[17]For more information or to have your say, [18]click here

[19]For 2018 survey results Everyone's Business: 4th National Sexual
Harassment survey

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. file:///tmp/humanrights.gov.au
3. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
4. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
5. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
6. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
7. mailto:[email address]
8. file:///tmp/humanrights.gov.au
9. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
10. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
11. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
12. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
13. mailto:[FOI #5248 email]
14. mailto:[email address]
15. file:///tmp/humanrights.gov.au
16. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
17. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
18. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...
19. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...

Link to this

From: Nil

Delivered

Thanks for your time on the phone yesterday.

(1) As mentioned, my interest, and the public interest (see, for example, para [6.19] of the FOI Guidelines), is in any document that may reveal or constitute prima facie evidence of Mr Wilson’s misconduct in public office (particularly given the recent history of other political appointments made by this Government of persons closely affiliated with the Liberal Party and/or the IPA who have subsequently been found to have acted illegally in public office eg. Nigel Hadgkiss, John Lloyd).

(2) Such interest is heightened in the context of Mr Wilson’s appointment to the position of Human Rights Commissioner because:
- immediately prior to his appointment, Mr Wilson spent seven years in senior positions at far right wing and Liberal Party affiliated political lobby group, the IPA – a lobby group that has consistently called for the abolition of the AHRC as part of its political manifesto; and
- Mr Wilson leveraged his political appointment as Human Rights Commissioner to become a member of Parliament.

(3) To that end, there’s a strong public interest in any document that tends to:
- indicate that Mr Wilson may have used Commonwealth resources (such as AHRC provided computer resources) to further the political interests of the IPA and/or the Liberal Party;
- indicate that Mr Wilson may have used Commonwealth resources to assist or otherwise facilitate his move from being a statutory officer to being a member of Parliament;
- indicate that Mr Wilson has engaged in conduct that, in the ordinary course, would amount to a contravention of the Public Service Act 1999 (eg. ss 10 and 13);
- indicate that Mr Wilson may have contravened any relevant requirement set out in Subdivision A of Division 3 of Part 2-2 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013; and/or
- constitute prima facie evidence of the commission of an offence under Divisions 139, 141 or 142 of the Criminal Code Act 1995.

(4) Appreciating that your searches of Mr Wilson’s email client indicate that Mr Wilson used Commonwealth resources on numerous occasions to send documents to, or receive documents from, the IPA and/or the Liberal Party, I am willing to further narrow the scope of my request such that:
- any newsletters, mass member emails or administrative type (eg, regarding membership dues) documents sent by either the IPA or the Liberal Party are excluded from the scope of my request;
- the personal information of any third party (other than Mr Wilson’s) can be redacted from any relevant document except where that personal information is necessary to make out proscribed behaviour of a type captured in my paragraph (2) above.

Thank you.

Link to this

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission

Dear FOI Applicant

Thank you for your email.

I will consider the refined scope of your request and will get back to you with any questions shortly. As foreshadowed in our telephone conversation earlier this week, I will consider how much work is involved and will write to you regarding a possible extension of time for me to process this FOI request.

Is there a contact number that I can reach you on? Or would you prefer me to email, and ask you to contact me?

Kind regards,
Hashini

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Nil

Delivered

Thanks – best to email me.

Also, I just noticed a typo in my previous email to you. The last part of the last sentence should read “behaviour of a type captured in my paragraph (3) above”

Link to this

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission

Dear FOI Applicant

Thank you for your below email.

I refer to point (4) of your email below. Eliminating "any newsletters, mass member emails or administrative type (eg, regarding membership dues) documents sent by either the IPA or the Liberal Party" has significantly reduced the number of documents. However, both the volume of documents involved, and in particular the number of third parties that I am required to consult with, is still too large. Please note, that not all emails/documents captured by your request are necessarily documents sent to, or received from, the IPA and/or the Liberal Party, however because of the search terms you have provided they are nonetheless captured. I suspect that there will be emails/documents captured by this request, that will be irrelevant to your purpose. I will explain further why this is the case when I next speak with you regarding your request.

The majority of emails captured contain personal information, and redaction of that personal information will, in many cases, result in a document being almost entirely redacted. I note that you are seeking disclosure of personal information if and when it is necessary to make out proscribed behaviour of the type captured in your point (2) below. However, in processing this FOI, I cannot conduct the analysis required to determine whether or not a particular email or document would be relevant to the points you outline in (2) below.

I believe that the work involved in processing this request in its current (narrower) form would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of this agency from its other operations due to the scope of the request. As discussed with you previously, this may result in a practical refusal under s 24AA of the FOI Act.

Can you please further consider whether your request can be narrowed. The best potential way to narrow this request would be to narrow it to a particular issue (if you know more specifically, what exactly you are looking for). Unfortunately, I don't think that narrowing the date range, or excluding all duplicates, personal information or business information belonging to third parties will help much in this case.

I will be available to talk on Monday morning from 9am. Please give me a call on Monday to discuss this matter further.

Kind regards,
Hashini

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Nil

Delivered

Hi

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. As discussed, I'm willing to exclude from the scope of my request any emails Mr Wilson has sent from his own AHRC email account to his own IPA email account. I'm also willing to exclude any document that does not contain (in the body of the email or within any of the addressee fields) any of the following terms: "election", "nominate", "nomination", "goldstein", "breheny", "paterson", "roskam", "robb", "lloyd", "preselection", "abetz", "pre-selection" and/or "minister".

Thank you.

Link to this

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission

Dear FOI Applicant

I have now conducted a refined search in line with your below email. While the number of documents involved are significantly reduced (I am getting approximately 60 pages), the amount of third party personal information captured by the documents is still too large. I would still be required to consult with a high volume of third parties (potentially 50+).

However, in my view, processing your FOI request would be possible if the scope of the request was narrowed even further, as follows:

•Emails in Tim Wilson's Australian Human Rights Commission inbox that contain the terms “Ipa.org.au” and/or “liberal.org.au” (in the body of the email or within any of the addressee fields).

From these, exclude the following:
•any document that does not contain (in the body of the email or within any of the addressee fields) any of the following terms: "election", "nominate", "nomination", "goldstein", "breheny", "paterson", "roskam", "robb", "lloyd", "preselection", "abetz", "pre-selection" and/or "minister"
•Any emails sent from [email address] to [email address]
•Any emails sent from [email address] to [email address]
•Any emails of an administrative nature
•Any e-newsletters
•Any event invitations
•Any emails which contain personal views on human rights issues (these emails, at least on face value, could be deemed irrelevant to your stated purpose – please feel free to call me if you have any questions regarding this)
•Any duplicates

The set of emails captured by the above scope is small in number, and would require me to consult with approximately 10-15 third parties. If you are satisfied with this, please let me know that you wish me to proceed in accordance with the above, and I will begin the third party consultations.

If you do wish me to proceed, as discussed, will you agree to an extension of 30 days for a decision to be made? I am seeking this extension under section 15AA of the FOI Act. If you agree, my decision will be due on 13 May 2019.

Kind regards,
Hashini

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From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission

Dear FOI Applicant

I refer to my email below. Have you have an opportunity to further consider your request?

I am not sure if you tried to contact me via telephone today? I received a number of calls from an anonymous number but there was no voicemail left so I do not know if it was you, and I cannot call you back as I do not have your telephone contact number. If you did try and call me, my apologies for missing your call.

If you intend to continue with your request and want to discuss it further can you please call me before 5pm today or alternatively at 9:45am tomorrow morning?

Kind regards,
Hashini

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Link to this

From: Nil

Delivered

Thanks for your time yesterday.

As discussed, I agree to narrow the scope of my request as follows:
• Emails in all of Tim Wilson's Australian Human Rights Commission email account (including deleted items/drafts) that contain the terms “ipa.org.au” and/or “liberal.org.au” (in the body of the email or within any of the addressee fields).

From these, exclude the following:
• any document that does not contain (in the body of the email or within any of the addressee fields) any of the following terms: "election", "nominate", "nomination", "goldstein", "breheny", "paterson", "roskam", "robb", "lloyd", "preselection", "abetz", "pre-selection" and/or "minister"
• any emails sent from Mr Wilson’s AHRC issued email account to Mr Wilson’s IPA email account
• any emails sent from Mr Wilson’s IPA email account to Mr Wilson’s AHRC issued email account
• any emails of an administrative nature
• any e-newsletters
• any duplicates

Given the public interest in whether a statutory officer has used Commonwealth resources to sign up to political groups and receive related invitations (to party political events or otherwise) from those groups, I do not agree to the exclusion of event invitations from the scope of documents the subject of my request, although I agree for the personal information of any person other than Mr Wilson’s to be redacted from such invitations.

There is also a strong public interest in the content of communications between Mr Wilson, as a statutory officer using taxpayer funded resources, to engage in discussions on human rights issues with his colleagues at the Liberal Party and far right wing lobby group, the IPA. And so I do not agree for those documents to be excluded from the scope of my request, although I agree for the personal information of any person other than Mr Wilson’s to be redacted from those documents (noting that according to the definition of personal information, once a third party’s contact details are redacted, any general opinions/commentary on human rights matters expressed in those documents by Mr Wilson’s IPA/Liberal party colleagues are unlikely to constitute personal information and should remain unredacted (on the basis those generalised comments do not identify a person).

Lastly, I agree to the extension requested such that a decision will be provided on my request by 13 May 2019.

Link to this

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission

Dear FOI Applicant

Thank you for your below email. I will endeavour to provide you with my decision regarding your below FOI request as soon as possible, and by no later than 13 May 2019.

Is this the email address that you would like me to use when I provide you with the decision?

Kind regards,
Hashini

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From: Nil

Delivered

Yes, this email address is fine. But if you’d prefer to provide your decision to another one, please let me know and I'll be in touch.

Link to this

From: Hashini Panditharatne
Australian Human Rights Commission


Attachment 13.05.19 FOI Decision.pdf
908K Download View as HTML


Dear FOI Applicant

 

Please see the attached decision in relation to your FOI request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hashini Panditharatne

Senior Lawyer

Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
T +61 2 9284 9712
E [1][email address] | W [2]humanrights.gov.au

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land,

the Gadigal peoples of the Eora Nation, and pay

our respects to their Elders, past, present and future.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. file:///tmp/humanrights.gov.au

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From: Nil

Delivered

Thanks very much for your work on this.

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Australian Human Rights Commission only: