PM's department to refuse bid to access $660m car park scandal documents

2 weeks ago 491
The Prime Minister's Department plans to refuse a bid for access to documents related to the $660 million commuter car park scandal, arguing it would "substantially and unreasonably interfere" with Scott Morrison's job.
9News asked for correspondence over 2018 and 2019 between the Prime Minister's office and the office of then-Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge about the car parks program and the $4 billion Urban Congestion Fund.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet advised it intends to refuse the request, citing the two-year timeframe.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison former Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge. (Alex Ellinghausen/Sydney Morning Herald)
"The Prime Minister is the head of the National Government and your request presents a significant challenge to the day-to-day execution of his duties," the department said.
The letter sent to 9News claims the "work of both the Prime Minister and his staff will be delayed" if they were to process the Freedom of Information request.
In its report into the car parks program, the Auditor-General was scathing, showing that taxpayer money was used to target projects in Coalition-held seats, mostly in Melbourne.
The report said:
  • The scheme, which was boosted in the lead-up to the 2019 election was not "merit-based"
  • "There was not appropriate engagement"
  • "Project distribution reflected the political profile of those given the opportunity to identify candidate projects for funding consideration"
  • 77 per cent of projects were in Coalition-held seats, a further 10 per cent in ones they wanted to win
  • The cost of a single car space was more than $211,000
  • The Prime Minister "effected" 38 projects in written agreement with ministers
Parliamentary hearings have heard claims a list of marginals was drawn up to use in discussions.
"It started being initially termed as being 'top 20 marginals' … to touch base with the top 20 marginal — either the member of the House of Representatives, the duty senator, or (their offices) - to ask them, 'what projects in your electorate are worthy of being put through this program?'" the Australian National Audit Office's Brian Boyd told a hearing.
"In some cases, the evidence shows the local member or duty senator was actually engaging with the (Prime Minister's Office), who would then pass it onto the minister's office."
Alan Tudge has denied knowledge of a "top 20 marginals" list linked to the car park fund. (Alex Ellingausen/Sydney Morning Herald)
Last month, Mr Morrison was pressed on what involvement he had in the program.
"The Ministers made the decisions on these programs", he said.
Mr Morrison would not answer if he had seen the list.
"What Australians are getting are more car parks," he said.
"Australians are the winners."
That's despite just three of more than 40 projects being built since they were promised more than two years ago.
In its plan to reject Nine's Freedom of Information request, the Prime Minister's department said: "I consider processing your request, in its current terms, would substantially and unreasonably interfere with the performance of the Prime Minister's functions, considering the other responsibilities of the Prime Minister and the demands on his time, and that of his office.
"There is a risk of inappropriate or inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information about the Prime Minister's activities, discussions or meetings, with any of a large range of people or on a range of issues."
Nine plans to continue its fight for access to these documents.
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