08 November 2009

Governments are afraid of their people after all

Well, afraid of their people getting their hands on information and then daring to ask questions.  Good heavens, imagine the time that would take.

Take for example, this quote from a weekend Telegram news story (Correctional Update:  Yeah it is online.) on Danny Williams and his attitude toward disclosure of public records:

“If things get out and they have to be known, and we can be questioned on it, absolutely but if we had to have an open book on absolutely everything we’re doing, I’ve got to tell you, I’d be out of here.  I’d be gone.”

In the front end of that quote, Williams was expressing his concern about the drag on his time if he had to explain things once documents and other information were released.

This is really old hat by now and it is really old hat to note that Danny Williams was a huge proponent of open records laws before he got elected.  Once he took the oath, he very quickly thought it a bad idea for the public to know what he was up to.

Take for example his very first great foray into freedom from information.  The telegram asked for copies of polling Williams commissioned from one of his favourite pollsters.  Williams refused to disclose them despite the fact the law stated in plain English that polling couldn’t be withheld.   In another instance, the telegram asked for files it knew existed.  Williams admitted there were “purple files”.  The official reply to the request was that they didn’t exist and no documents were disclosed. 

Funny, then to see him quoted in the Telly six years later as saying:  “we go through the process and we vet what we’re entitled to vet by the rules. ”

That purple file one is still lost in the “process”, incidentally, almost two years later.