The erosion of freedom of speech reported in an audit by former NSW ombudsman Irene Moss issued yesterday (“Damning report cites erosion of free speech”, November 6, p5) is a situation which should worry all citizens.
It is pertinent that the audit was commissioned by a coalition of major media groups. A free press and open access to information are fundamental to the successful operation of a democratic society.
Civil Liberties Australia calls on both major parties to genuinely commit to a full review and reform of FOI and whistleblowing provisions in a bipartisan manner.
The culture of secrecy which has been allowed to develop in Australia is infectious and pernicious.
Government, including the executive and the bureaucracy, must operate with accountability and transparency.
Mary W of Melbourne wrote on 21 Dec 07:
The "Freedom of Speech" rights or rather the lack of them can lead to employees of an organisation being able to table a Report to the general public without being held accountable for the integrity of its contents.
Recently I challenged the contents of a Local Victorian Council’s financial reports and was immediately threatened with legal action should I continue to voice my concerns in a public forum.
I specifically challenged the Chief Financial Officer whose name appeared on the Annual Report as the Responsible Officer. I believed him to be responsible and accountable for the validity of the contents of the Report.
In addition, the Local Councillor elected to represent my views, told me that he would never participate in an action "denerating a fellow Administrator or Councillors" leaving me to wonder how the ordinary man in the street can bring to the attention of the "Powers that Be" obvious flaws in the system!. eg $3Million asset acquired in excess of one year not noted in the Annual Draft Budget, the Adopted Budget or the following 2006-007 Annual Report. This unimproved capital asset’s sales was formally approved for sale within 8 weeks of the Budget being adopted and yet there is no challenge permitted, even though our rates were increased 5 -6 %. The $3 Million is treated as "surplus to budget" and I am unable to question the Officer responsible for the preparation of the Council’s Finances without threat of litergation.
One sure way of making sure the public keep their mouths shut about their concerns is to threatened legal action in a forum a pensioner can’t compete with!.
It is like salmon swimming upstream to fight the system! few get to lay their eggs by comparison to the attempts!