The watchdog for parliamentary expenses is refusing to release information about staff travel relating to Vikki Campion, the one-time adviser and now partner of former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, claiming doing so could “endanger life”.
A Freedom of Information request lodged by The West Australian sought a breakdown of staff travel for the offices of Senator Matt Canavan and MP Damian Drum, where Ms Campion was employed after she was shifted from Mr Joyce’s office. However, the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority has refused to release any details of staff in those offices.
The authority claims that the release of the information would have the consequence of “endangering the life or physical safety” of the staff involved, or individuals associated.
Petra Gartmann, the authorised decision maker for the Freedom of Information request, said that given the “public profile and frequent media attention on the employing members and some members of their staff, I consider that disclosure could reasonably be expected to compromise the safety of third party and/or associated individuals.”
She said that while the document by itself may not cause harm, it could be used in combination with other publicly available information. “It may establish a pattern of behaviour or contribute to a complete picture of travel movements which could result in harm,” she said.
The agency has also ruled that some of the information is of a “personal nature”, despite the claimed travel being for official purposes and paid for by taxpayers.
“Release of the information in the document may compromise the personal privacy of the staff employed by Senator Canavan and Mr Drum. Some of the information … was collected in a context in which there was a reasonable expectation of privacy,” she said.
The West Australian had sought a breakdown of about $165,000 worth of travel by staff in Senator Canavan’s office from April to September last year, and details of the $27,000 of staff travel conducted by staff in Mr Drum’s office from July to September last year.
Ms Campion was moved from Mr Joyce to Senator Canavan’s office in April last year.
After Senator Canavan quit his frontbench position over the dual citizenship issue, Ms Campion moved to Mr Drum’s office where she worked as a social media manager.