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‘Not his place’: Govt under fire over Weimar gag bid

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Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar this week confirmed he led the attempt to suppress for five years details of a court case in which the Victorian WorkCover Authority was fighting for access to the confidential data.During the case, Mr Weimar even acknowledged there was a “risk (it) might be disclosed to third parties”, but ­argued Victorians should be kept in the dark so his team’s contact-tracing efforts weren’t affected.The revelation was only ­exposed by Herald Sun this week after a suppression order expired.Shadow Treasurer David Davis said it was “outrageous” that an unelected official had been given the power to decide the critical information should remain secret and then pursue a suppression order.“If he’s made that decision, he has stepped beyond his purview,” he said.“He has essentially made decisions that should only be made by elected officials in terms of blocking the public’s access to critical information.“His job is to follow directions, if that’s the case, perhaps to give advice. His job is not to make decisions about what is in the public interest and whether the public has a right to see critical information.”Small Business Australia chief executive Bill Lang said it was “refreshing” that Mr Weimar took responsibility for the decision, but it posed a lesson for all in government. “The commander is to be congratulated, in this case, to announce this was a deliberate decision to attempt to cover up the court case that was being run,” he said.“At least we see here there is no creeping assumption, and the public servant has taken full responsibility in confirming to the citizens of Victoria that he made the decision. “What all MPs and senior public servants need to understand is that by covering up information and keeping things from the community, they do more to reduce the citizen’s confidence in the quality of public administration.“Trying to keep important information from the public eye does more harm than good.”Mr Weimar confirmed on Tuesday that it was his call to push for secrecy but said it was only to uphold public confidence in the system.“We wanted that not to be held in open public because of the undermining and the anxiety that would cause to people if they felt that there was a risk that we will be required to hand over the data,” he said, noting that no contact tracing information had been released.Former premier Jeff Kennett said while he didn’t believe Mr Weimar’s claims that he initiated the suppression bid without the authority of the Premier or a senior minister, if he did he should resign.“He has no authority to do that. It’s untenable,” he added.



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