Some very wise words

Peter Aranyi has castigated me and Cactus online, but out of that castigation has come an understanding of where our thinking lies.

He has written perhaps the best summary yet of the issues surrounding Phil Goff’s smears on Warren Tucker and my OIA request to the SIS. PLus as a bonus his thoughts on Martyn Bradbury.

While it?s common for the Official Information Act to be utilised by journalists and others in the ?media?, it is a law designed to enable?citizens to hold their government machinery accountable.

That (despite Martyn Bradbury?s and others? hallucination/fear/loathing) is all ?Citizen? Slater did. That he was first off the mark, and cannily couched his request in deliberately limited terms that seemed likely to him to get a quick result (i.e. limited to papers that were probably already on the recently-smeared SIS director?s desk) just makes him an effective inquirer.

Broad OIA requests (fishing expeditions) require more bureaucratic ?processing time?, as anyone accustomed to dealing with government agencies knows. Bradbury and others? agitated mis-statement of the facts (e.g. describing the SIS as ?leaking? info to Slater) just further corrodes their credibility and, forgive me, make them look like uninformed plonkers.

and his comments on the SIS and the speed with which they issued their response to my request:

On the other, political, question: Should SIS boss Tucker have ?expedited? Slater?s OIA request: Duh. What was his alternative? Delay? Sit on the request? Obfuscate? (i.e. Standard operating procedure.) Would that have been ?better??

I?ve been told that Tucker presaged his ?notice? to the Prime Minister and Mr Goff of his intention to grant Slater?s OIA request by seeking Crown Law Office advice about his options. So Goff?s (reported) ?objection? to the release was met with words to the effect of: ?Crown Law says we have to comply with the OIA and supply redacted documents.? Bureaucrat snooker.

A quick survey: Do you think Mr Tucker, faced with his integrity being used?as a political football, was (a) more inclined or (b) less inclined to shield Mr Goff from any legally-compliant release that appeared to contradict Mr Goff?s assertions against him? Gee, let me think.

Better question: Do you think a career public servant like Tucker?appreciates a politician making him out to be, let?s not mince words, a liar? No.?(But what if it?s true?)

I studied bureaucracy at Victoria (majored in Politics and studied Public Power and Administrative Behaviour at Vic under Bob Gregory) and let me tell you this: Politicians and public servants have a prickly relationship at the best of times. A politician who publicly attacks a member of the civil service is making enemies he really can?t afford to make. They will find a way to hurt him. Members of both parties fall into this trap. This spat between Tucker and Goff can be seen as an example of bureaucratic whiplash.

But was this the politicisation of the SIS?

Some have made the point, rationally, that these events harbour the ?politicisation? of the Security Intelligence Service.

I?m not so sure it is political. I think it?s personal. Tucker?s (reported) actions of ?soliciting? OIA requests from media (if true) ? and then by-anyone?s-standards clearly fast-tracking a response to the first OIA request to right wing/National Party blogger Cameron Slater can be seen as?personally vindictive. I think he was trying to defend his reputation from political attack.

I don’t agree with Peter that Warren tucker over-stepped the mark, but that is one of the hallmarks of mature adults and a robust democracy. Peter and I can agree on somethings and disagree on others and still maintain a healthy respect fro our points of view.