Former Senator Rex Patrick was known as the ‘Transparency Warrior’ during his time in the Federal Parliament.
In addition to the normal tools used by senators to enforce transparency of Government (e.g. questions at question time, written questions on notice, Senate Estimates questioning, Inquiries and Senate orders for the production of documents) Rex also made extensive use of Freedom of Information request in the Federal domain and subsequent reviews by the Information Commissioner and the Administrative Appeals Tribunals (AAT).
Rex also made numerous requests under South Australian FOI laws and sought Ombudsman reviews and South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Reviews.
Rex believes that transparency is a critical element of a representative democracy. Without transparency citizens cannot properly participate in democracy – and the likelihood of corruption or maladministration occurring increases.
Rex is the most experienced FOI Applicant/Appellent in Australia!
Significant FOI Wins
When Prime Minister Morrison created the National Cabinet and then tried to wrap a secrecy blanket over everything it dealt with by suggesting it was a committee of the Federal Cabinet, Rex said ‘no way’ and took the matter all the way to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Justice White ruled that National Cabinet is not a Committee of the Cabinet within the meaning in the FOI Act and granted Rex access to the National Cabinet documents that Rex had requested.
Uncensoring the Auditor-General
In 2018 the Attorney-General, Christian Porter, issued a certificate under section 37 of the Auditor-General’s Act which censored an Audit Report on the Army’s Hawkei light protective vehicle procurement. The certificate was ‘conclusive’ which meant the results of the audit would never become known.
At least that’s what the Attorney-General thought until Rex sought the uncensored report under FOI. The Government were ordered to release the report uncensored.
Kimba NRWMF Ministerial Brief
When the Minister for Resources, Senator Canavan, down-selected two sites in Kimba as possible locations for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Rex requested access to the brief the Department provided to the Minister to help make the decision.
His Department said Rex couldn’t have the brief, but after an FOI battle that ended up in the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Rex was provided with a largely unreacted document which he shared with the Kimba community.
Chief of Navy’s Diaries
Rex wanted to know who the Chief of Navy has been meeting with. After all, everything he does is paid for by the taxpayer and is for public purpose.
Rex didn’t want to know any Defence secrets.
Initially the Department of Defence refused Rex access to any information. But it turns out they had applied the law incorrectly and, after Rex made a review request by the Information Commissioner, the diary was handed over.
Rex in the Senate trying to
keep the Government honest
The TRANSPARENCY WARRIOR’s hope:
“That FOI handling inside Government becomes so speedy and transparent that they put me out of business.“