Well, the NRMA has proved that saying correct, yet again.
Sydney Morning Herald journo Matthew Moore, who has been on a very admirable mission to expose the NSW Government's shortcomings, nay hypocrisies, in relation to freedom of information (FOI) has revealed, courtesy of one very p*ssed off NRMA member, that the NRMA has been playing games with its so-called information.
In an article titled "Secrets under the hood" Moore does a very nice job for NRMA members to reveal just what a pack of incompetents (although some might say mischiefs, while others might go further and say something a whole lot worse) the current regime at the NRMA happens to be.
"If you think it is only government departments that have secrecy and spin as the core principles in their mission statements, take a look at the country's biggest motoring organisation, the NRMA.
To understand how it operates, go back to January when its president, Alan Evans, called on the State Government to ditch plans for a cycleway on Epping Road.
Evans issued a press statement headlined, "NRMA plan for Epping Road: Don't bump motorists for bikes". It said the NSW Government was wasting $7.6 million on the Epping Road bike path even though only 25 cyclists used it daily.
Instead of wasting $300,000 a cyclist, the Government should widen the road to make more room for cars and trucks, it said. In the news vacuum that is often part of a Sydney summer, Evans's punchy comments got page one treatment in the papers, which mentioned the full NRMA case was set out in a submission to the Roads and Traffic Authority. One NRMA member and cyclist, Nigel Withers, thought he would like to read that submission and tried to get hold of it.
When he couldn't find it on the NRMA website, he wrote to Evans asking for a copy. Evans replied on January 16 but would not hand over the submission. He offered this laughable excuse: "NRMA's submission to the RTA is now an internal departmental document." Withers wrote back, but this time was ignored. Undeterred, he tried the NRMA's Open Road magazine, explaining he had twice asked Evans for the submission without success. "Perhaps Open Road could print the submission in question," he wrote optimistically. Not likely.
The editor-in-chief of Open Road, David Naylor, replied on February 8, telling him his letter had been passed to the head of "government relations and public policy". Nothing came back, so Withers changed tack.
In May he submitted a freedom-of-information request to the Roads and Traffic Authority seeking a copy of "the NRMA submissions regarding bikeways on Epping Road". At least the RTA replied, even if it was not what he expected: "There are no documents relating to your request," they said.
How could there be no submission when the NRMA president had released a summary of it and confirmed in writing there was one?
This week I rang the the NRMA's PR team to find out and got the Withers treatment. For days they promised to send me a copy but it never arrived. Still, the excuses were diverting: "We genuinely did not know what submission you were talking about … The guys who wrote the submission were in the country … Our guys were not back in 'til yesterday … "
Finally, the NRMA admitted the RTA was right. There is no submission. The closest thing is a three-page document sent to the RTA in August 2006, 17 months before that press release about useless cycleways.
We still haven't seen that three-page document. Nor have we seen the survey of bike-lane usage the NRMA now says was done many months after the 2006 submission.
If the NRMA expects to be taken seriously, it should adopt the levels of transparency demanded of government. If it is going to quote from "surveys", it should post survey reports online to be scrutinised. The same goes for so-called submissions. An organisation this size should not be relying on misleading press statements alone to influence public debates.