Monday, January 14, 2013

"Stalling tactics"

ASH is outraged that the tobacco industry are using the OIA to request information on government tobacco policy, and are accusing them of trying to "bog down" the Ministry of Health with their requests. So how many requests did tobacco companies and their lawyers send in this effort to flood the Ministry and halt progress/ Thousands? Hundreds?

Nope. Nine in two years - less than five a year. I've been known to send that many in a single day. And against a backdrop of 450 requests a year processe dby the Ministry of health, its a drop in the bucket.

But apparently, these requests asked for a lot of information!

[British American Tobacco]'s first request, sent in May 2011, consisted of 63 separate points for documentation on plain packaging reform.

But as the article points out, the requests were largely declined because they would have required "substantial collation and research" (I would hope that this was done only after the Ministry had consulted with the requester and considered fixing a charge or extending the time limit, as they are required to do by law). So pretty obviously the Ministry has the tools to deal with such requests without suffering undue administrative stress.

While I don't like the tobacco industry, this is simply an attempt by ASH to smear them, at the cost of weakening the right of access to information for everyone. But as DPF points out, the OIA is not limited only to groups the government approves of - it is for all of us. And we weaken it at our peril.