NSW Premier Chris Minns has been forced to defend his government and police minister against accusations information about the fatal tasering of 95-year-old Clare Nowland is being kept secret.
Police Minister Yasmin Catley has faced fierce criticism after her department refused to release briefing documents related to Ms Nowland’s death, as well as heavily redacting other documents published under freedom of information (FOI) requests from the opposition.
Ms Nowland’s death sparked outrage across the state after she was allegedly tasered by Senior Constable Kristian White in her Cooma nursing home in May after she began walking towards police while holding a steak knife.
Mr White has been charged over the incident and is yet to enter any plea to the court.
The Premier was taken to task by 2GB radio host Ben Fordham, who accused the Minns government of failing to be transparent with voters.
“Why is your Police Minister Yasmin Catley, refusing to hand over documents relating to the case? You’ve got these heavily redacted documents that have been handed over, in some cases, the whole page is black,” Mr Fordham asked the Premier.
Mr Minns went on to argue that the documents that had been released were for a freedom of information (FOI) request and that the incident is currently being investigated by a law enforcement conduct commission inquiry and coronial inquiry as well as in court.
“All information from the government, the police, the minister‘s office, have been provided to those agencies,” he told the host.
“So anyone that’s conducting a lawful examination into the circumstances of Ms Nolan’s death is getting full transparency from the government. ”
Mr Fordham pressed the Premier on the amount of redactions in the documents, describing it as “almost laughable”.
“The whole page is black, that page is blank, on this page, it just says ‘Good evening’, and then the rest of its black,” he exclaimed.
“There’s another one here where it’s all black and the only words down the bottom say ‘I can expand on this further’, expand on what? It’s all blacked out!”
Mr Minns skirted around the question, saying he “didn’t provide that information or redact it” before arguing that advice given to a minister by staff is not subject to freedom of information requests.
“This goes all the way back through the previous government and the one before that, and the one before that…It’s the situation under our government when it comes to the [Government Information Public Access] Act,” he said.
He went on to swat aside accusations from the NSW Coalition of “hypocrisy” over the heavily redacted documents, with Opposition Leader Mark Speakman saying Labor used FOI requests to bring the former Liberal Government “to a standstill”.
“Now when we make what we think is a modest request for documents, they’ve pulled down the shutters,” Mr Speakman said in June.
“Is there something they’re trying to hide? We don’t know, but if there is nothing to hide, then come clean and produce the documents.”
Mr Minns denied allegations of hypocrisy, arguing he had received similar redacted responses from the former government.
Originally published as ‘Blank’: Ben Fordham outraged over redacted release of FOI documents related to taser death of Clare Nowland