An alcohol harm reduction body has accused the federal government of an ''appalling level of transparency'' after it refused to release documents explaining why it axed the nation's drug and alcohol body after almost 50 years of operation.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education had its freedom of information request denied on the grounds it was ''not in the public interest''.
Drug bodies are desperate to understand why the sudden funding cut occurred, and fear more is to come.
After making the cut the government has now decided to review funding for every advocacy and research body it funds.
Drug and alcohol advocacy and university-based research centres have been sent an email informing them that a "a brief and high level analysis of the role of drug and alcohol peaks, councils and centres which currently receive funding" would be conducted this month and next. It says the analysis will consider what advice, information and evidence is needed by the government, and the requirements and reach of its funding arrangements.
The chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, Michael Thorn, said he feared the documents could contain a "hit list" of bodies the government considered expendable.
"It just increases the level of suspicion among public health organisations," he said. "People are afraid to pursue government around the advice they have been receiving that may have led to these sorts of decisions."
Another freedom of information request, seen by Fairfax Media, and also rejected, reveals the depth of concern in the sector about the removal of funding for Australia's peak drug and alcohol body.
Included in the list of unreleased documents are representations from more than 200 individuals and groups that have contacted the government to express concern.
This week Fairfax revealed Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash had refused a request to meet with a delegation of representatives of drug and alcohol bodies to discuss a way forward in light of the cancellation of funding for the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia.
Mr Thorn said the government had still not clearly explained why it had happened, and there had been an appalling level of transparency around the process.
"Given the concerns about the failure to properly deal with alcohol and public health issues, I think that the public has a right to know what the basis of the reasoning was," he said. "I fear there has been a deliberate attempt to delay on this until ADCA's doors are closed at the end of the month."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it had dealt with the FOI applications as fairly as possible.
"As with all FOI requests, the decision-maker carefully considered the provisions of the FOI legislation … and the decision was made in accordance with Departmental processes and the FOI Act," she said. "The FOI applicants … are welcome to seek a review."
Greens senator Richard Di Natale said it was remarkable that as the country was debating alcohol-related harm the government was ''preparing to silence the experts''.
''The Abbott government is showing it is all about ideology, and against evidence and science,'' he said.
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