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Releasing secret documents about fast-tracked commercial projects

After seven months before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) on behalf of our client, the Australian Conservation Foundation, we won the case for the release of key documents regarding the decision to fast-track 15 commercial projects in the name of post-COVID economic recovery. 

The documents in question relate to the fast-tracking of 15 commercial projects designed to aid post-COVID economic recovery, including a Perth Airport upgrade, the Narrabri gas field project in NSW and the expansion of the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in South Australia. 

ACF challenged Australia’s Freedom of Information (FOI) system, which is failing to provide proper transparency of government behaviour. 

We argued that deliberations by the National Cabinet are in the public interest and therefore do not attract confidentiality and documentation cannot be withheld about these fast-tracked developments. 

The government attempted to use five different exemption categories to prevent the release of the documents. It has now effectively conceded none of the exemptions apply by releasing all the information to our client ACF, who first requested them in July 2020. 

Releasing these documents is an important win for government transparency, especially as it exposes the rushed process behind the 15 fast-tracked environmental projects. 

You can read more in ACF’s Access Denied report, which reveals the increasing use of refusals, delays, redactions and higher charges to limit access to key decisions about the environment. 

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