Resources Minister could avoid FOI request come Saturday's election

Resources Minister Matt Canavan has failed to comply with an order to process a freedom of information request by the Information Commissioner, with concerns the chance for scrutiny will be lost after Saturday's election.

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick first requested access to parts of the minister's diary at the end of 2017, seeking information about who the minister met with regarding the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility at Kimba and Hawker in South Australia.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan may avoid scrutiny if he loses his job on Saturday.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan may avoid scrutiny if he loses his job on Saturday.

The two towns are proposed locations for a nuclear waste storage site, and Senator Patrick said he wanted to know who was being consulted over the plans.

The request has been bogged down in bureaucracy for 18 months, culminating in an order on March 25 by Information Commissioner Angelene Falk to process the request within 30 days.

Senator Patrick has heard nothing from the minister's office, despite repeated attempts by the Information Commission to contact the office.

He is concerned the minister could dodge scrutiny if the Coalition loses the election and Senator Canavan is no longer minister.

Under a precedent set by the former information commissioner in 2013, if documents are requested from one minister, and then the minister changes, the documents are considered no longer subject to Freedom of Information laws because they are not held by a current minister.

"If Minister Canavan holds out until Saturday and the current polling is correct, it is likely that he will have successfully avoided disclosure, but in a manner contrary to law and in contravention of the Prime Minister's Statement of Ministerial Standards," Senator Patrick said.

Senator Patrick also believes the failure to obey the information commissioner's order shows disregard for the law.

"The minister disobeying the lawful direction of the Information Commissioner shows a complete lack of respect for the Information Commissioner and my constituents," Senator Patrick said.

"This sort of conduct shows the Coalition's complete disregard for openness and transparency and to the FOI regime."

A spokesman for the minister said Minister Canavan's office received a large volume of requests under the FOI scheme.

"All applications are processed with adherence to the law, and mindful of the other workload that must also be completed at the same time as processing FOI requests," he said.

"This FOI request is being completed and all transparency requirements will be met."

Gaining access to ministerial diaries has been a fraught legal frontier for transparency advocates, with former attorney general George Brandis fighting a three-year legal battle to keep his diaries under wraps.

The 34 pages of printouts from his Outlook calendar were released after he was threatened with contempt of court proceedings.