Information Commissioner reviews
The review process is designed to be as informal as possible and is conducted by staff of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). There are a number of stages to an Information Commissioner review (IC review). These are at the discretion of the Information Commissioner, the Freedom of Information Commissioner (FOI Commissioner) or the Privacy Commissioner and staff. Only the Information Commissioner, the FOI Commissioner or the Privacy Commissioner can make a decision at the end of the review.
Stage 1 — Registration
Your review application is registered and an early assessment made to ensure it includes all key information to be a valid review. This includes:
- your contact details
- the FOI decision letter for review
- your reasons why you think the decision is wrong.
A letter acknowledging the receipt of your matter will be sent to you. The Minister or agency whose decision you want reviewed is notified of your application.
A staff member may record a suggested approach to the application during this stage to assist the investigating case officer.
Stage 2 — Preliminary inquiries
A case officer is assigned to your application. They will advise you and the Minister or agency (the parties to the review) that they are handling the application and provide you with their contact details.
The case officer may make preliminary inquiries of the parties to help in determining whether to undertake a review. This includes determining if the review decision falls within the Information Commissioner’s jurisdiction or if the Information Commissioner will exercise the discretion not to undertake a review under s 54W of the FOI Act. The main reason why the Information Commissioner decides not to undertake an IC review, or not to continue to undertake an IC review, under s 54W is that the application is lacking in substance. For this reason it is important your submissions clearly set out why you believe the decision is wrong.
Stage 3 — Review
If the application is assessed as containing valid reasons for review, such as why the application of exemptions to edit information prior to release is incorrect, the case officer will progress the application to investigation.
The case officer assigned to your matter may contact you or any of the other parties to clarify matters addressed in the application or seek more information. OAIC Staff may also ask the agency or minister to provide reasons for their decision if the reasons given were inadequate.
To help resolve applications promptly, the OAIC may use alternative dispute resolution methods or any other appropriate technique. Alternative dispute resolution methods can clarify at an early stage the issues to be resolved or the information to be provided by either party in support of their claims or submissions.
Stage 4 — Decision
The Information Commissioner, the FOI Commissioner or the Privacy Commissioner will review the information provided by the parties during the previous stages and may make further inquiries prior to making a decision.
Once a decision is made by a Commissioner the parties to the review are notified and the decision is published on the internet. Previous decisions can be viewed on the IC reviews page.
Further information on the review process undertaken by the Information Commissioner is available in the Guidelines issued under section 93A of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, specifically Part 10 — Review by the Information Commissioner.