No FOI smelter scrutiny

A STATE government bill exempting the Port of Portland from freedom of information (FOI) scrutiny will remain in place after an unsuccessful bid by the Greens to scrap it. 

Earlier this month the Greens introduced a motion to amend the Portland Aluminium Smelter Act, which exempts the company from Victorian FOI documents.

The original bill was drawn up in 1984 under the John Cain Labor government to protect its commercial agreements with Alcoa’s smelters at Portland and Point Henry. 

The bill had gone unnoticed until it was targeted by the Greens last year when an EPA report about a coal mine and power station in Anglesea was kept from the public. 

Alcoa now has only a 60 per cent stake in Portland Aluminium. However, the south-west smelter still falls under the bill.

The move to scrap its protections failed to gain support in the upper house, with only three Greens members voting in favour.

Speaking against the bill, member for Eastern Victoria Philip Davis said it would add to pressure already facing the aluminium giant. 

“I have enormous difficulty with the bill because it challenges the commercial sensitivities around an enterprise which employs many people in both Portland and Geelong,” Mr Davis said. “(It) is a great contributor to those local regional economies.” 

Greens member Greg Barber said the purpose of the bill was to allow the release of the confidential environmental report. 

“This is not about some trade secrets that might have been shared between the government and Alcoa 30 years ago,” Mr Barber said.

“... the provision in this FOI act is currently extraordinarily wide and has been granted only to one company. This bill would simply make the rules for Alcoa the same as every other company in Victoria.” 

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