Lysander: The ABC and the “Right” to No

Yesterday, I walked into a taxpayer funded department and got myself a taxpayer funded salary. I got a taxpayer funded iPhone, laptop and iPad. I got a prestigious @gov.au email address or the like. I got a taxpayer funded car park and exclusive access to highly sensitive internal information that one could only glean through a taxpayer funded incumbency.

Today, I applied for leave after copying all of this exclusive, sensitive information and privileged access onto a USB drive. My intent of “taking” this data is to write a one-sided book on a person I don’t like very much for my own personal and commercial gain (and on a topic nobody else has had such unfettered, and taxpayer funded, access to). Only my taxpayer-funded contacts know what I’m up to; and they help me!

Maybe, I work for the ATO. And I’ve downloaded your personal business tax returns and done a book deal on my “expose” on you with Fairfax; err, sorry… Channel 9. No, maybe, I work for the NBN and I’ve set up a hub outside your home to monitor every site you browse. I’ve got it all on USB, I’m taking leave and I’m going to destroy you.

In each of these cases you, as the impacted citizen, could legitimately use an FOI process to determine if this was the case. In most cases you have substantial rights (unless it’s an Obama IRS scheme).

But not if you FOI’d the ABC. Their secrecy level, according to the FAQs at various Information Commissioner websites rank right up there with the Five Eyes Spying Program. You have very little chance of getting any information out of the ABC at all (who are also paid up members of the Right To Know Coalition).

This is usually because they hide behind the old “this relates to program material” defence (which has been upheld in at least four Federal Court cases; but I think this is till testable). And guess what, everything at the ABC relates to “program material;” including emails, notes, journals, discussions, discarded coffee cups and policies.  Even Cabinet documents are released after a certain amount of time but not ABC’s “program material!”

The primary reason why the ABC doesn’t release “program material” is for fear of pilfering. Imagine of the evil Murdoch666 could FOI ABC program materials and then flog them off on Fox/Sky! (Ahem, he might make money on it; taxpayers might see returns!). Or Channel 10 wouldn’t have to pay millions for a Pointless exercise that doesn’t end up rating squat. The other reason is, simply, to hide from scrutiny.

But isn’t it ironic that the ABC use this as their defence against the evil Murdoch666 and others, but their own journalists are allowed access to it, use it freely and then even profit from it? And how many workplaces allow you to use work-derived IP for personal and commercial use? Particularly at the impost of the taxpayer?

So, in April 2017 I was surprised when Victoria Police made a surprise announcement about some charges they were going to be making. Strangely, on the very same day, a taxpayer funded person with access to exclusive taxpayer-funded information on the same topic brought forward their own personal book release announcement date. Odd. This got me interested.

This taxpayer-funded incumbent suddenly was not on leave anymore and was reporting and commenting on the situation; all whilst selling their book for personal and commercial gain. The incumbent was dutiful enough to take the publication out of one jurisdiction’s bookshelves and to cry “sub judice” if any questions were raised (but it was, and still is, available everywhere else and on eBay).

So, I decided to ask the ABC:

  • If I could have FOI’d access to her emails to assess whether the ABC journalist profited personally and commercially from her exclusive access and taxpayer position in investigating the specific topical matter.

It only took the ABC six or more weeks to say “no, look away, nothing here folks.” There were no negotiations, it was simply “no.” The ABC bombarded me with a list of court cases that apparently set the precedent for not releasing any information.

So, I applied to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) in July 2017. Over those months, the ABC Legal Team’s response erred on laughable. They couldn’t work out if this journalist was on leave to write a book, on secondment, had email access or not, had managerial approval or not, was allowed to do what she did or not… And at the end of the day this line was abandoned because these questions fell outside of the initial scope of the FOI request. Fair enough, I’ll just refine my scope for my next FOI request.

Notwithstanding the fact that my FOI request “went missing” for a while, it wasn’t until early 2018 that I started getting a steadier feed of reasons from the ABC for not releasing the information. In May the ABC offered mediation on the issue, but I was not about to take a Chamberlain-esque approach of appeasement on the matter and cave in. The ABC weren’t really offering anything but more reasons not to release the information.

Amongst the usual reasons for declining the FOI request, the ABC seemed to be clutching at some straws too. Three, laughable reasons for not releasing the information were:

  1. The release of the information would “destroy the Federative relationship between the States of Australia” (I’m dead-serious);
  2. The ABC would incur the wrath of the Royal Commission;
  3. There was a voluminous amount of material related to my FOI request and it would be an onerous task to work through it.

These reasons were, obviously, quickly abandoned and 13 months later, it’s August 2018 and the ABC still say “no” because this material is “program material.” Regrettably, the OAIC (have to) also agree as the FOI Act allows the ABC a Five Eyes Status. This is a problem with the ABC and the FOI Act.

The journalist in question continues to reap in revenue for her book. How much did she make? We will never know. She continues to commentate, at the very same time, on the topic at large for the ABC. The same journalist refuses to answer fundamental questions regarding inconsistencies in her book from the likes of Nancy.

Will taxpayers see any revenue? Will the ABC share the financial rewards of this pursuit? That’s also outside the FOI requirements I’m afraid.

If a taxpayer funded ABC “activist” does a hatchet job on you (while charging you for the pleasure) you have no action for recourse because, it’s likely, “program material” and therefore exempt from FOI.

This entry was posted in Guest Post, Media, Shut it down. Fire them all.. Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Lysander: The ABC and the “Right” to No

  1. Rae

    Author! Author!

    Ah, Lysander. Why have you chosen to document your failures so publicly?

    PS. I preferred the shorter version you put on one of the Open Forums.

  2. Shy Ted

    I think they meant FFI – Freedom From Information. That’s the Absolute Blatantly Corrupt.

  3. Tim Neilson

    Shocking, indeed.

    And if the ABC’s form is anything like normal, hours of taxpayer funded broadcasting time will be devoted to promoting the book, despite the ABC’s sanctimony about even mentioning any commercial product being sold by anyone other than an ABC luvvie (e.g. the “Pura Cup” could only be referred to as “domestic cricket”).

  4. Well done Lysander. More power to your arm. Keep going.

  5. Tom

    And, just like clockwork, Big Government Googleory weighs in to support Big Government’s use of taxpayer money to conceal itself from scrutiny.

    Apart from being such a disappointment to your mother, what a pathetic public service parasite you are, Googleory.

  6. Lysander

    Yes Rae, it was a failure but has given me a newer FOI angle outside of their usual “program material” bullshit line. Thanks Riccardo, Tim and Ted.

  7. Linden

    The ABC has in the past many many times, helped in the unsolicited flogging of favoured commecials products. ie you only have to recall the daily habit one John Faine when always referring to articles in the Age newspaper as his source of information. I used to wonder how come he only ever referred to the Age and not some of the other daily publications? That little question to myself has well and truely been answered these days.

  8. Des Deskperson

    ‘Today, I applied for leave after copying all of this exclusive, sensitive information and privileged access onto a USB drive.”

    A minor point, but I doubt if you would have needed to do even that.

    Unless there ABC is some years behind other Commonwealth authorities in the IT facilities it provides to its senior and middle level stuff, you would have been provided with a RAS – (Remote Access System?) that would have given you 24/7 access from your home computer to exactly the same documents, with the same levels of sensitivity and the same changes and updates, that you could have at your work desk The installation of this system would have been likely to have required some taxpayer- funded hardware and labour.

    I think it unlikely that this system would have been disabled while you were on leave – nobody would have bothered to check you – and it would also have the same levels of personal use as permitted your work computer.

    There may be ABC documentation about this person’s allocation of an RAS and whether it was disabled during their (note my non-gender specific pronoun) leave.

    I repeat my usual comment on the ABC, namely that for a taxpayer-funded organisation, its level of opaqueness in key areas such as staff selection and remuneration and the assessment and allocation of contracts for ‘productions’ is astonishing.

  9. Old School Conservative

    Yet another fetid example of Australia’s own swamp drowning its citizens in secrecy and power grabbing.

    Keep up the good work Lysander.
    Britannica tells me your namesake had a wonderful victory in the Pelloponesian wars. May you have your own Hellespont.

  10. Peter Castieau

    Great stuff Lysander!

    And piss off Rae/Gargoolery you mendacious piece of shit.

  11. Lysander

    Des, your point makes it more intriguing.

    So the taxpayer funded ABC gave leave to a taxpayer funded journalist to write a commercial book thanks to being given exclusive taxpayer funded facts, figures and taxpayer funded contacts and she did it all with remote access (obviously thanks to taxpayers).

    How “very ABC.” Why spend five bucks on a USB when you can use the more expensive remote access solution!

  12. Chris

    And piss off Rae/Gargoolery you mendacious piece of shit.

    Liberty quote.

  13. Baldrick

    So an ABC employee can investigate someone/something on the taxpayers dime and then use that material for their own personal gain. Then deny that material to others on the pretext it is “program material”.

    Despite what GrigoRae says about failures, I think you’ve brought to light something not many of us were aware and that in itself is indeed a success Lysander.

  14. John Constantine

    Come the Revolution, money will cease to have value.

    Therefore anything that progresses the victory of the Revolution can not be for personal monetary profit, even if it looks like it to unbelievers.

    Comrades.

  15. Chris

    Listened to Their ABC news on the taxi radio covering Hollingworth this morining. What a nasty, vicious lot the ABC are.

  16. Baldrick, you took the words out of my mouth. But no complaints. Well said. And well done Lysander.

  17. Geriatric Mayfly

    Been in a massive brawl with Amazon.com most of the day, this post has had an invaluable restorative effect.

  18. Delta A

    Good on you, Lysander, for persevering with this issue. I just wish this post could be more widely viewed.

    “The release of the information would “destroy the Federative relationship between the States of Australia””

    Still shaking my head about that excuse.

  19. Old Lefty

    Good luck – you’ll need it. Senator Abetz has now had three attempts in Senate Estimates at drawing blood out of the ABC stone on the ABC’s pedophile casting couch – the Jon Stephens affair. After twice getting nothing more than the two fingers, Guthrie’s minions have graciously informed the Senate that they have engaged a barrister to review the case (at the taxpyer’s expense) – i.e. lawyered up.

    And it the ABC thinks it’s so offensive to victims for Hollingworth to remain a bishop, how do the ABC and Fairfax justify to parents who have lost their sons in the rent-boy rackets in inner Sydney their gushing tributes to Richard Neville? Neville, and those from Ashbolt’s Marxist kindergarten who worked wiht him on the pederasty program, are at least as guilty as Archbishop Wilson of concealment; why were there never any charges, and why isn’t the ABC advocating charges? (The tributes to Neville, by the way, include a gushing piece by Neville’s old mate Geoffrey Robertson, and a tweet singing his praises by Mark Scott of the ABC, now in charge of the NSW Department of Education. The Cromer High victims don’t have a chance.)

    Neville is (like Dorothy Hewitt) a protected species. A soft interview with Neville Auntie re-ran on his death tells us why:its tile, “lancing the Conservative Boil’, could be the modern ABC’s mission statement.

  20. Robber Baron

    A billion dollars of tax payer money wasted by people that have zero respect for the tax payer.

  21. RobK

    Good work Lysander. I’m appalled but not surprised.

  22. Siltstone

    Lysander, you have revealed the massive sense of entitlement the the ALPC feels. Great persistence!

  23. Armadillo

    Well done Lysander.

  24. Lysander

    Thanks all. It’s wine o’ Clock!

  25. C.L.

    Lysander, sorry I’ve been OF refreshing only today and missed this excellent post until tonight.
    You, sir, are a gem. We thank you for doing this.
    Alan Jones has called for a judicial inquiry if a conviction is not forthcoming (authorities of all kinds in Victoria will do their utmost to get one, by any means).
    That would require action from a Liberal Attorney-General and/or the Commonwealth Attorney-General (as regards the ABC’s role). Given that the Liberals are now to the left of Gough Whitlam, this is unlikely. I don’t know how justice will be done and accountability attained but when and if that day comes, you will have played a very large and important role in exposing a monstrous, infamous perversion of justice.

  26. Lysander

    Thanks CL; very kind. But I’m not quite sure what you mean? You can’t post here or you have my email details… please use it 🙂

  27. None

    Lysander this should be front page news and I’m appalled and disgusted that it isn’t. Well done on your persistence. Some of this is so utterly laughable if it weren’t also so very very very wprrisome. We are in the middle of one of these Stalinesque super injunctions- a total blackout on media, no scrutiny of judicial process allowed- while an innocent man is potentially being sent down in secret. If you can uncover so much with just a simple foi request where is our media?

  28. C.L.

    … I’m not quite sure what you mean? You can’t post here or you have my email details… please use it.

    ?

  29. Lysander

    Don’t worry CL… I was looking for more info re: Alan Jones but my post was post gin and tonic time lol!!! 🙂

  30. Habib

    There’s always the dirt nap option. If they’re in Melbourne they can disappear for a couple of gorillas.

  31. Habib

    & the ABC is constantly using our funded air-time to promote assorted commercial products, usually but not always their own individual products. Clear breach of their porous charter, and they don’t give a shit. Our erstwhile “conservative” government are more scared of those mostly ignored marxist dolts than they are of the opposition, invertebrate sitzpinklers they are.

  32. Habib

    Even defence has a system that allows remote access to the DRN called DREAMS. A bit hit and miss (and still running on Windows XP) but pretty useful for staff work, saves a lot of trips. Even now works on tablets and smart phones.

  33. Chris

    & the ABC is constantly using our funded air-time to promote assorted commercial products, usually but not always their own individual products.

    I don’t give a shit about that, actually.
    I do give a shit about their ideological warfare to destroy rationality in favour of the stuff that PC nitwits pretend is true.

  34. Habib

    You should give a shit, they’re using your money to promote products that are diametrically opposed to the values and wellbeing of every decent, right-thinking individual. They are our enemy.

  35. Habib

    It’s akin to British taxpayers coughing for Lord Haw Haw’s salary package and endorsements.

  36. feelthebern

    Lysander, in that movie the Martian with Matt Damon, they had an outstanding process where everything that was government funded went open source after 48 hours.
    As long as it isnt national security related, I reckon that would be awesome.
    Imagine if all ABC footage recorded, their newsrooms, everything was open source.

  37. Lysander

    I agree Habib but I think the Five Eyes level of opaqueness at the ABC is ridiculous.

    I’ve worked for Parliament down Spring Street way, I’ve worked as a public servant and I’ve worked for two Ministers and Leaders of a Party. In each of these cases, when an FOI request came in, we literally had to drop everything, print out emails, search caches, usbs etc… the FOI Commissioner would come in to make sure we were doing everything correctly. If we didn’t, we risked reporting by the AG, Parliamentary questions and responses and torture from ABC Radio for not being transparent. Hah!

    I had so many emails go out via FOI requests it was ridiculous. But did I care? I only cared about the time it took to process them; I couldn’t have cared less about the content as I had nothing to hide. Ever.

  38. Habib

    The ABC gets away with its shit because it’s allowed to. As an entirely government-dependant structure it’s hugely vulnerable to not only be pulled into line, but completely compromised. That fact it isn’t serves to illustrate the craven cowardice of our alleged “leadership”. I wouldn’t follow any of those lampreys into a free beer barbeque.

    If they’re scared of the hipster fuckwits at Ultimo, I’d hate to see them faced with a serious challenge.

  39. Lysander

    One thing I don’t understand (may require legal assistance) is: If the ABC refuse to release such information as it is “program materials” then how did Robert Richter get access to Milligan’s handwritten notes on the case? Does a Court Order trump an FOI request and, if so, doesn’t that show an inconsistency? Surely a Court Order would have to consider the “program material” line and findings of past Federal Court cases?

  40. Empire 5:5

    You, sir, are a gem. We thank you for doing this.
    Alan Jones has called for a judicial inquiry if a conviction is not forthcoming (authorities of all kinds in Victoria will do their utmost to get one, by any means).
    That would require action from a Liberal Attorney-General and/or the Commonwealth Attorney-General (as regards the ABC’s role). Given that the Liberals are now to the left of Gough Whitlam, this is unlikely. I don’t know how justice will be done and accountability attained but when and if that day comes, you will have played a very large and important role in exposing a monstrous, infamous perversion of justice.

    This.

  41. Empire 5:5

    Fort Mead has the comms. Ask Don.

  42. Empire 5:5

    Meade. Sorry George.

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