Preventing Embarrassing Information Becoming Public

Guidelines issued by the Australian government's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet advise public servants on how to avoid personal notebook comments being disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act. "As some comments included in notebooks may have the potential to cause embarrassment or could be misinterpreted if taken out of context, you should transcribe the information that needs to be recorded into a file note, record of conversation or minute, and ensure it is placed on the appropriate departmental file. You can then destroy the original notes," the guideline says. In 2002 a Senate Committee of Inquiry investigating fabricated claims against a group of refugees perpetuated by a government taskforce complained that a failure to keep proper records rendered "the activities of the Taskforce largely inaccessible to subsequent scrutiny."