"As the ABC's managing director made clear at Senate estimates last week, that simply isn't true. We did not publish everything we had access to. We took advice from Australia's intelligence authorities on the matter and redacted sensitive operational information that might have compromised national security."
I was interested in looking at what "advice" ABC had been provided by "Australia's intelligence authorities" so filed an FOI request with the ABC for: “copies of the advice provided to the ABC by Australia’s intelligence authorities [as mentioned in a piece by Kate Torney published in The Australian newspaper on 26 November 2013]”.
Below is ABC's response which raises some serious questions about the veracity of Torney's claims that ABC took advice from "Australia's intelligence authorities on the matter". It seems no documents can be found to support this claim!
We have sent the following question to ABC's Mark Scott, cc'd to Malcolm Turnbull Communications Minister and Senator Ann Ruston member of the senate's Environment and Communications Legislation Committee:
Dear Mr Scott,
In light of the results of an ABC FOI search (see attached) that could not locate any documents that confirm ABC sought advice from "Australia's intelligence authorities" in relation to stolen US documents reported upon by the ABC that have significantly damaged Australia's relations with Indonesia can you please confirm that ABC sought advice from "Australia's intelligence authorities" prior to publication of the documents, and the nature of that advice. The basis of the request is a claim made by ABC's director of news Kate Torney in an op-ed piece published by The Australian newspaper on the 26th of November, 2013 in which Ms Torney claims: "We took advice from Australia's intelligence authorities on the matter and redacted sensitive operational information that might have compromised national security."
Scott's initial reply...I am currently travelling on annual leave.
FOI REQUEST - REFERENCE NUMBER 2013-053
I refer to your request for access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) in your email of 26 November 2013. You have sought access to the following documents:
“copies of the advice provided to the ABC by Australia’s intelligence authorities [as mentioned in a piece by Kate Torney published in The Australian newspaper on 26 November 2013]”.
I am authorised by the Managing Director under section 23 of the FOI Act to make decisions in respect of requests made under that Act. Following is my decision in relation to your request.
Locating and identifying documents
I have taken reasonable steps to identify and locate all relevant documents. My search for these documents involved contacting:
- Office of the Director, News;
- Head of Policy and Staff Development in the News Division; and
- Managing Director’s Chief of Staff.
I requested that searches be conducted of all hard and soft copy records for documents which fall within the scope of your request. As a result of those searches, no documents were identified.
In the present case, I consider that all reasonable steps have been taken to locate relevant documents. I am further satisfied that the requested documents do not exist and therefore access to them is refused pursuant to s24A of the FOI Act.
Head, Corporate Governance
UPDATE: as the same article appeared on THE DRUM under a different headline we have lodged a complaint of factual error with the ABC.