The Melbourne City Council has speciously claimed immunity where immunity does not exist. The Age Newspapers has sought copies of correspondence from the City Council to the Chinese Embassy but the Council administration has refused to release the documents in a code of silence claiming diplomatic immunity. This is further abuse of process and a further denial of ensuring the Council is open and transparent. Diplomatic immunity does not extend to the City Council. neither the Council administration or the Lord Major are diplomats in spite the fact that John So is entitled to a diplomatic passport, he is not covered under btol convention of diplomatic immunity.
In a surprise move Greens Councillor, Fraser Brindley, has played lip service top the notion that the documents should be published. Do not expect Brindely to do anything other then comment from a far. Unlike his predecessor Brindley's commitment to open and transparent government is not that strong. He does not have a good track record on holding them to account. Brindley is more noted for his efforts to avoid open public disclosure and previously referred Council reports for consideration behind closed doors at an illegal Councillors forum meeting. The meeting you have when your not having a meeting. Under the terms of the Local Government all meetings of council must be open to the public and only items declared confidential are discussed in closed session.
The reports consider by the Council in the Councillor only briefings are not confidential and should have been discuss in open session.
Likewise the correspondence between the Council and the Chinese embassy should also be made public.
Hopefully the Age will appeal against the Council's refusal to provide copies of documents.
Council's China link letters blocked
February 1, 2008
Source: The Age
MELBOURNE City Council has refused to release correspondence with the Chinese consulate, claiming the letters are exempt from freedom of information requests because of diplomatic immunity.
Lord Mayor John So, who has a history of close ties to the Chinese Government, said yesterday he had not interfered in the decision to keep all council correspondence — both to and from the Chinese consulate in Melbourne — confidential.
The Age last year requested, under freedom of information laws, all correspondence between the council and the consulate.
But the council's lawyers have refused.
They argue that the Chinese consulate is immune from freedom of information laws because of the "inviolability" articles of the Vienna Convention.
These say that all official correspondence of consulates can be shielded from scrutiny.
Acting council chief executive Geoff Lawler said the council had asked the Chinese consulate if it was happy to release documents to The Age.
"The Chinese consulate objected on the grounds that they were exempt under the Vienna Convention," he said.
But city councillor Fraser Brindley said the council had made a mistake refusing to release the documents.
"A council talking to a consulate shouldn't be confidential," he said. "This is another in a long list of incidents where John So's doing what the Chinese Government wants done. "Is his first service to the Chinese Government or to Melbourne?"
Last year, Cr So used his numbers on the council to quash a proposed Town Hall reception for the Falun Gong movement, which is banned in China.
The Chinese consulate did not return calls from The Age yesterday.