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"Catch 22" As Trans-Tasman Authority Blocks Info

12 May 2005

"Catch 22" As Trans-Tasman Authority Blocks Information

Trans-Tasman authorities based in Australia have created a "Catch 22" situation where NZ laws on Freedom of Information do not apply but Section 15 of the Australian code blocks New Zealand's access to the information.

GE Free NZ wrote to FSANZ under the Official Information Act for the safety data and assessments on Bt10 which has contaminated corn exports from the US. We were told that the Official Information NZ did not apply to FSANZ Authority and to apply under the Freedom of Information Act (Australia).

Now after five letters, this application has been refused under a legal technicality that sets an alarming precident. The Authorities say that under "section 15" of the Australian Code information cannot be released to a request from a New Zealand Address, only an Australian one.

"It is astonishing that the Australian-dominated authority have resorted to Section 15 of their Freedom of Information Act to refuse New Zealand enquries. It claims to be trans-Tasman but at the same time they say our standards don't apply, " says Clare Bleakley from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

This loophole must be closed and access to information properly safeguarded.

The blocking tactics are an example of an alarming loss of public access to information arising from Australian -based regulators. The situation demands intervention and action by the New Zealand Government..

"FSANZ is acting illegally in blocking this information. At the same time as creating this secrecy they are refusing to act over the illegal presence of GE Bt10 corn " says Claire Bleakley

"It is a very serious issue if the Trans Tasman Agencies refuse access to information to a sovereign nation they are supposed to represent".

ENDS

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