The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives members of the public a general right of access to documents of an agency and official documents of a Minister, other than exempt documents or parts of documents. Exemptions may relate to national security, material obtained in confidence, Cabinet documents, or other matters set out in the FOI Act.
The Act allows individuals access to their personal records held by Government and enables them to correct any personal information that is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.
The Act also requires an agency to publish information on its operations under the Information Publication Scheme and a disclosure log of information that has been accessed under Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. A potential applicant may find the information they are seeking is already available in those publications.
How to apply for access to documents
To make an FOI request the applicant should:
- apply in writing. This can be either through email at FOI@igt.gov.au or a letter sent via post to: Freedom of Information
Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman
PO Box 551
SYDNEY NSW 2001
- state that documents are being sought for the purposes of the FOI Act.
- specify a postal or email address where correspondence can be sent (a telephone number will also be helpful in case further information is required).
- describe as clearly as possible the information being sought (include any reference numbers or articles that may assist in identifying specific material).
The request will be valid from the date that the request has been clearly clarified.
The Inspector-General of Taxation and Taxation Ombudsman (IGTO) will process all FOI requests within 30 days unless:
- the subject matter is more closely connected to another agency, which may result in transfer to the relevant or appropriate agency;
- third party consultations are required, in which case an additional 30 days may be added;
- the applicant agrees to additional time for the processing of the request;
- additional time is requested by the Australian Information Commissioner in cases of complex or voluminous requests; or
- a decision has been made to impose charges.
Once the FOI request has been completed by the IGTO, any available documents will be forwarded to the applicant. If the requested documents or parts of them are within an exemption specified in the Act, the IGTO will provide reasons for the decision to exempt.
The FOI Act provides that from 1 May 2011 a disclosure log of information accessed under FOI requests must be published, except for personal, business or certain other information set out in section 11C of the Act.
There is no application fee for an FOI request. Processing charges may apply to requests other than for documents containing only personal information. The charges are in accordance with regulations made under the FOI Act.
If there is a charge, the applicant will receive a written estimate and advice how the charge is calculated. Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, IGTO may ask for a deposit of $20, or a 25% deposit where the estimated charge exceeds $100, before the application is processed.
Applicants can ask for a charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. Evidence may be requested.
Applicants have the right of a review of FOI decisions made by the IGTO. The following options are available:
An internal review may be granted in relation to a decision not to grant access to documents or parts of documents. An application for review should be made within 30 days of receiving the decision. This time can be extended in certain circumstances.
An independent review of the decision will be undertaken and a decision made within 30 days.
Review by the Australian Information Commissioner
Applications may be made to the Australian Information Commissioner for a review of the following decisions:
- an internal review;
- a deemed decision (where a decision was not made in the specified time);
- an original decision (electing to skip an internal review); or
- a decision to refuse additional time to make an internal review request.
Applications must be made within 60 days after receiving the decision to be reviewed. The Australian Information Commissioner may extend that time in certain circumstances.
More information can be found on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's website at www.oaic.gov.au.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)
Decisions made by the Australian Information Commissioner may be appealed through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Australian Information Commissioner will provide information on how to appeal in their response.