February 9th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: Water - Australia's most urgent priority

Canberra Observed: Simon Crean faces a horrible year ahead

South Australia: Close contest looms in SA Election

A tale of two legacies

Straws in the Wind: Old crooks and new / Paying the piper

East Timor: Opposition warns of Fretilin power grab

MEDIA: ABC TV 'Media Watch' - Who polices the police?

Letters: Public servants defended

Letters: Population: asset or disaster?

Letters: Harris Scarfe retailing business

DEVELOPMENT: Privatisation and the national debt: what is to be done?

Comment: Terrorism, refugees and the the populist resurgence

The new Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh and The Colonel

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Letters: Public servants defended

by Doug Brown

News Weekly, February 9, 2002

Two questions for Mark Lopez (News Weekly, January 26):

(1) Why do you hate all public servants? and

(2) If you really want to see Marxist movements wither away, why do you object to Marxist demonstrations?

I am a public servant and, quite simply, am offended by Mark Lopez’s unsubstantiated and mean-spirited attack on public servants. Every person has a story to tell about public service incompetence, but every person, if honest about the matter, would have dozens of stories to tell about public service efficiency and helpfulness.

I am a middle-ranking NSW public servant. One of the groups in my department which reports to me is the department’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Unit.

The unit is staffed by two people. Yet, last year, they dealt with 311 FOI applications. Some applications sought hundreds of pages of documents. Each application required the FOI staff to charge and collect application and processing fees; locate relevant documents; read the documents; delete material in accordance with complex rules to be found in the FOI Act, relevant case law and Ombudsman’s guidelines; keep scrupulous records to justify, in the event of an applicant appealing to the Ombudsman or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, why certain material was deleted; and write a determination letter explaining in detail the rationale for all deletions.

All this, in 21 calendar days from the date of receipt of the application. And I haven’t even mentioned the processing of appeals, the collation of policy documents every six months for publication in the Government Gazette, and work generated by the new privacy legislation.

I often go to work on weekends. I am never alone on such occasions. I, also, like many other public servants, read work on the train. Look around you, Mark, next time you catch public transport. Spot the public servant reading a report or checking draft letters.

As for my second question to Mark Lopez, his own article shows just how sensible the police are to allow Marxist groups their one or two lanes of public road on a Sunday to hold their pathetic demonstrations.

Police rightly allow fun runs on public roads, for the enjoyment of those who like to parade their physical fitness for all to see. Police also, rightly, allow Marxist demonstrations on public roads, for the enjoyment of those who like to parade their belief in a 19th Century religion which is on its last legs.

Doug Brown,
Turramurra, NSW

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