The cost of needless secrecy on nuclear. What’s the scam?

by Rex Patrick | Apr 11, 2024 | What's the scam?

The Defence Department and the ADF should keep secrets important to protect our national security. But that doesn’t mean everything they do should be secret. Rex Patrick on the cost of needless secrecy.

The scam is that it’s YOU who are paying for Defence to improperly withhold information from YOU.

It’s been 395 days since I made the FOI request, 336 days since the Department of Defence said “no,” and 231 days since lawyers started their billing clocks to try to defend Defence’s secrecy addiction in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

The topic of the FOI request is one that goes to elements of the AUKUS program that relate to:

nuclear regulation, stewardship and safety, the management of operations nuclear waste, reactor decommissioning, and the management of nuclear waste.

The request doesn’t seek access to the submarine’s maximum depth and speed, weapon launch procedures, or acoustic signatures. The information sought is of the type that intersects with the community and which, in the modified words of the FOI exemption that Defence has employed … “would, or could reasonably be expected to, cause damage benefit to the defence of the Commonwealth through building a social licence for nuclear.”

Refuse everything

Their “refuse everything” approach is even more inexplicable, noting that Defence knows it has to build a social licence to operate nuclear reactors. ANSTO actually instructed them on this during the Morrison study into AUKUS.

Today, the government will hand over some of the secret documents that they now concede aren’t actually secret. That means the poor taxpayer will foot the bill for the AAT’s resources (because I’ll get my $1000 AAT application fee back) in addition to the lawyers’ fees.

AAT decision re nuclear watse etc

The taxpayer’s cost-to-date is not known. Senator Jacqui Lambie has asked Defence for them through Senate processes.

I’m willing, based on past experience, to wager the legal fees alone will be north of $50K.

All because of an anti-transparency culture inside the Defence establishment. A culture that is especially acute inside AUKUS, where all information must, in their view, be contained within the valence shell.

AUKwardUS: Peter Dutton’s Albo nuclear wedge may cost us hundreds of billions

Rex Patrick is a former Senator for South Australia and earlier a submariner in the armed forces. Best known as an anti-corruption and transparency crusader -

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