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Brownlee won't yet divulge govt interest in port stoush

BUSINESSDESK: Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee won’t divulge the government’s interest in the Ports of Auckland dispute, declining an Official Information Act request from the Council of Trade Unions for details of its thinking.

The CTU wrote to the minister in February requesting, “all information and advice that has been prepared by the Ministry of Transport for the Minister of Transport since 1 January 2011.”

“The reason we declined the request is because it is out of scope,” a spokesman for Brownlee. The minister is reviewing the files and may yet release them, he said.

Brownlee declined to release any documents to the CTU under the OIA, sayint the release wasn’t in the public interest.

Among the sections of the act Brownlee cited for his blanket refusal were those protecting the confidentiality of advice tendered by ministers or officials, the free and frank discussion by officials and the unreasonable prejudice and damage to public interest or the commercial position of a person.

“Brownlee needs to explain to Aucklanders what he is withholding,” Helen Kelly, CTU president said in a statement. “There is a clear public interest in knowing what our transport minister is being told about this dispute.”

The port met with the Maritime Union today to discuss when workers would return to work. Union members have been on strike for the past four weeks.

The company said in a statement that it told the union that it couldn’t expect an immediate return to work for its members because of the significant disruption to shipping schedules caused from ongoing strike action.