Senate Estimates hearings take place three times a year, usually in February (Additional Estimates), May (Budget Estimates) and October (Supplementary Budget Estimates). Senate Estimates provide the opportunity to ask agency heads, such as the three Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) Commissioners, questions about the operations of the agency.
During Senate Estimates the Senator may ask a question that requires a detailed answer. For example, the Senator may ask about the timeframe to process a freedom of information (FOI) request or the specific date of a media release. If the Australian Information Commissioner or support staff does not have the material available they may take the question 'on notice' and answer it at a later date.
Additionally, the Senators may wish to ask a number of general questions to the Portfolio. The agency is required to provide a response to questions taken on notice during Estimates, and general portfolio questions.
In both cases the responsible department will disseminate the questions to its agencies and co-ordinate a response. The OAIC's responsible department is the Attorney-General's Department.