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Four years ago the Herald reported on a leaked version of an upcoming train timetable. The story was reasonably positive. We tallied changes between the then timetable and the leaked version, which was to take effect in five months. We reported services on some lines would increase, but services to some stations would drop.
Nevertheless, the then transport minister, Gladys Berejiklian, described the leaked information as premature.
"The timetable is still in draft stage and there is plenty of work to do before it is finalised," she said in a statement.
"I expect more changes over coming months," she said.
Berejiklian's statement, it seems, was incorrect.
We know this because of a decision last week in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. That decision sheds light on the occasionally tortured arguments governments can use to preserve the secrecy of decision making. It also helps demonstrate how a bias toward secrecy can turn against those infected by it.
In last week's decision, Transport for NSW lost a dispute with the ABCover whether it should release draft elements of a 2018 rail timetable under the Government Information (Public Access) Act, the state's freedom of information legislation.
In evidence, Sydney Trains' head of rail service planning, Nikolai Mark Prince, explained that few changes could be made to a rail timetable in the year before it was released.
"There are minor changes made to the timetable in the six-12 months before it commences, and in the final six months, the timetable is effectively locked down," Prince said.
One of the problems that arose following the 2013 leak, he said, was that it created an impression in the community the timetable could be changed. In fact, by the time the leak occurred, no major changes could be made to the timetable.
If Berejiklian was guilty of misleading four years ago, it was hardly Nixonian duplicity. But the general attitude of elements of her government, as reflected in the Transport for NSW decision to oppose the release of the 2018 rail timetable (which Prince says might trigger more complaints than in 2013), demonstrates a broad and persistent lack of comfort with candour.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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