On this page:
- Freedom of information guidelines
- Privacy guidelines
- Information policy guidance
Freedom of information guidelines
The 2010 amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are the most substantial changes to Australia's national freedom of information law since it commenced.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has published a guide which explains the main provisions and underlying principles of the FOI Act including the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the Act and the key features of the 2010 reforms.
As well the OAIC has produced detailed guidance material to help Australian Government agencies understand what the main changes to the FOI Act are, and how they affect agencies' activities
Guidelines issued under section 93A of the Freedom of Information Act 1982
Agencies must have regard to guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under section 93A of the FOI Act when they are performing a function or exercising a power under that Act. Below are the current Guidelines followed by a table of links to archived versions which includes a summary of significant changes between each version.
Current section 93A FOI Act guidelines
Combined set of s 93A FOI Act guideline parts (as at March 2013) PDF (7.3MB)
- Preface (PDF)
- Part 1 – Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 2 – Scope of application of the Freedom of Information Act (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 3 – Processing requests for access (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 4 – Charges for providing access (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 5 – Exemptions (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 6 – Conditional Exemptions (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 7 – Amendment and annotation of personal records (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 8 – Decisions on FOI requests (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 9 – Internal agency review of decisions (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 10 – Review by the Information Commissioner (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 11 – Complaints and investigations (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 12 – Vexatious applicant declarations (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 13 – Information Publication Scheme (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 14 – Disclosure log (HTML) (PDF)
- Part 15 – Reporting (HTML) (PDF)
- Glossary (HTML) (PDF)
|Part||Version||Currency dates||Changes and other comments|
|Preface||Original||4-Feb-2011 to 27-Oct-11|
|Preface||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to 24-Jan-2013||Table of contents updated|
|Preface||v1.2||25-Jan-2013 to ...||Publication date updated|
|Part 1 – Intro to the FOI Act||Original||24-Dec-2010 to 24-Oct-2011|
|Part 1 – Intro to the FOI Act||v1.1||25-Oct-2011 to 24-Jan-2013||Updated regarding commencement of the IPS and Norfolk Island amendments. Stylistic changes to references to FOI guidelines.|
|Part 1 – Intro to the FOI Act||v1.2||25-Jan-2013 to ...||
Inclusion of new paragraph 1.8 to place greater emphasis on administrative access and releasing government information outside the formal requirement of the FOI Act.
Updated reference to Part 13 — Information publication scheme (paragraph 1.14).
|Part 2 – Scope of application of the FOI Act||Original||24-Dec-2010 to 24-Oct-2011|
|Part 2 – Scope of application of the FOI Act||v1.1||25-Oct-2011 to 08-May-2012||Inserted footnote at paragraph 2.6 referring to ‘B’ and Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General  AICmr 6. Stylistic changes to references to FOI guidelines.|
|Part 2 – Scope of application of the FOI Act||v1.2||9-May-2012 to 27-Mar-2013||New paragraph about the application of the FOI Act to Commonwealth Parliamentary departments (paragraph 2.5)|
|Part 2 – Scope of application of the FOI Act||v1.3||28-Mar-2013 to ...||
Expanded discussion of the application of the FOI Act to the Official Secretary to the Governor-General following Kline v Official Secretary to the Governor-General  FCAFC 184 (paragraph 2.7).
Inclusion of Parliamentary Budget Office and Parliamentary Budget Officer in list of bodies that are not agencies for the purposes of the FOI Act and updated footnote reference to Fair Work Australia to the Fair Work Commission (paragraph 2.9)
Incorporation of footnote references to recent AAT and IC review decisions (paragraphs 2.10 and 2.19)
Included a reference to the exemption of all agencies and ministers from the FOI Act in relation to private sessions before the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission (paragraph 2.12).
Clarification that the authorised person makes a decision on behalf of the minister in the capacity of an agent rather than in their own right as an authorised person (paragraph 2.24).
|Part 3 – Processing requests for access||Original||22-Jul-2011 to 24-Oct-2011|
|Part 3 – Processing requests for access||v1.1||25-Oct-2011 to 24-Jan-2013||Stylistic changes to references to FOI guidelines.|
|Part 3 – Processing requests for access||v1.2||25-Jan-2013 to 27-Mar-2013||
Addition of new paragraphs encouraging agencies to develop policies and processes that facilitate the disclosure of information to the public administratively (paragraphs 3.3–3.5).
Clarification that a request may be made by one person on behalf of another person or group, or by an organisation (such as a law firm or non-government organisation) on behalf of a client or member (paragraphs 3.6, 3.36–3.39). See also the Information Commissioner's statement Who qualifies as a 'person' eligible to make a request under s 15 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982? (January 2013) (PDF).
Inclusion of footnote reference to Agency resource 14: Access to government information – administrative access schemes (paragraph 3.23).
Expanded discussion of requirements when making an FOI request by email or fax and referencing s 14A of the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (paragraphs 3.28–29).
Incorporation of footnote references to IC review decisions: 'G' and Australian Taxation Office  AICmr 9 and 'H' and Australian Broadcasting Corporation  AICmr 10 (paragraph 3.54 fn 14).
|Part 3 – Processing requests for access||v1.3||28-Mar-2013 to ...||
Clarification that the processing period commences on the day after the day the request is received (paragraph 3.31)
Removed inaccurate footnote reference to Chu v Telstra Corporation Limited (2005) FCA 1730 (paragraph 3.58).
Updated to included references to Parliamentary Budget Office documents (s 45A) (paragraph 3.89).
|Part 4 – Charges for providing access||Original||4-Feb-2011 to 24-Oct-2011|
|Part 4 – Charges for providing access||v1.1||25-Oct-2011 to 27-Mar-2013||Updated regarding commencement of the IPS (paragraph 4.54)|
|Part 4 – Charges for providing access||v1.2||28-Mar-2013 to ...||
Updated fee payable to the AAT for an application for review of a decision of the Information Commissioner (paragraph 4.8)
Expanded discussion of collecting charges and whether a charge is a debt due to the Commonwealth (paragraph 4.30).
Clarification that a decision maker does not have to consider the content of a document where it is clear from the applicant's request that, if such a document exists, the Act does not apply to it (paragraph 4.53).
Discussion of good administrative practice when notifying an internal review applicant of an affirmed charges decision (paragraphs 4.64-4.66).
Incorporation of footnote references to IC review decisions (paragraphs 4.48, 4.53 and 4.56).
|Part 5 – Exemptions||Original||25-Feb-2011 to 24-Oct-2011|
|Part 5 – Exemptions||v1.1||25-Oct-2011 to 27-Mar-2013||Reference to ‘informal’ request rather than ‘valid’ request (paragraph 5.1). Inclusion of references to ss 47E(a) and 47E(b) (paragraph 5.12). Updated regarding commencement of the IPS (paragraph 5.133). Stylistic changes to references to FOI guidelines.|
|Part 5 – Exemptions||v1.2||28-Mar-2013 to ...||
Inclusion of reference to the Parliamentary Budget Office documents exemption (s 45A) (paragraphs 5.6, 5.44, 5.154–5.163)
Incorporation of footnote references to IC review decisions throughout (paragraphs 5.53, 5.94, 5.110, 5.128, 5.134, 5.139, 5.181).
|Part 6 – Conditional Exemptions||Original||4-Mar-2011 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Part 6 – Conditional Exemptions||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to 27-Mar-2013||
Insert reference to Carver and Fair Work Ombudsman  AICmr 5 at paragraph 6.25 and text at paragraph 6.63
|Part 6 – Conditional Exemptions||v1.2||28-Mar-2013 to ...||
Incorporation of footnote references to IC review decisions throughout (paragraphs 6.25, 6.29, 6.32, 6.62, 6.68, 6.78, 6.120, 6.127, 6.166, 6.184, 6.196).
Removal of reference to Department of Social Security v Dyrenfurth (1988) 80 ALR 533 (paragraph 6.142).
Amended description of Searle Australia Pty Ltd v Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Department of Community Services and Health (1992) 108 ALR 163 to more accurately reflect ‘serious criminality' rather than ‘unlawful conduct' (paragraph 6.166).
|Part 7 – Amendment and annotation of personal records||Original||14-Apr-2011 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Part 7 – Amendment and annotation of personal records||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to ...||
Amendment of references to FOI Act (paragraphs 7.40 and 7.41)Stylistic changes to references to FOI guidelines
|Part 8 – Decisions on FOI requests||Original||25-Oct-2011 to 27-Mar-2013|
|Part 8 – Decisions on FOI requests||v1.1||28-Mar-2013 to ...||
Amendment to include references to Parliamentary Budget Office documents (s 45A) (paragraphs 8.45–8.46).
Updated reference to the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 and calculating the processing period (paragraphs 8.71–8.75).
Expanded discussion of extensions of time provisions to the processing timeframes for deemed decisions following O'Donoghue v Australian Information Commissioner (No. 3)  FCA 1244.
Updated to note that, where third party review rights apply only to some of the documents falling under an access grant decision, the FOI applicant should be given access to the remaining documents as soon as practicable (paragraph 8.97)
Amendment to clarify when third parties may apply for internal or IC review (paragraphs 8.100–8.104).
|Part 9 – Internal agency review of decisions||Original||15-Mar-2011 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Part 9 – Internal agency review of decisions||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to 24-Jan-2013||
New paragraph clarifying guidance regarding extension of time (paragraph 9.25)
|Part 9 – Internal agency review of decisions||v1.2||25-Jan-2013 to ...||
Amendment to clarify when third parties may apply for internal review (paragraphs 9.12–9.13).
|Part 10 – Review by the Information Commissioner||Original||24-Dec-2010 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Part 10 – Review by the Information Commissioner||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to 24-Jan-2013||
Addition of guidance regarding who should notify the FOI applicant if a third party has sought IC review of an access grant decision (paragraph 10.78)
|Part 10 – Review by the Information Commissioner||v1.2||25-Jan-2013 to 27-Mar-2013||
Clarification as to when third parties may apply for IC review (paragraph 10.9).
Inserted text noting that the Information Commissioner and the Inspector-General Intelligence and Security have entered into a memorandum of understanding (paragraph 10.55).
|Part 10 – Review by the Information Commissioner||v1.3||28-Mar-2013 to ...||
Amendment to include references to Parliamentary Budget Office documents exemption (s 45A) (paragraphs 10.69, 10.72, 10.74).
|Part 11 – Complaints and investigations||Original||24-Dec-2010 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Part 11 – Complaints and investigations||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to ...||Stylistic changes to references to FOI guidelines|
|Part 12 – Vexatious applicant declarations||Original||24-Dec-2010 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Part 12 – Vexatious applicant declarations||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to ...||Stylistic change to references to FOI guidelines|
|Part 13 – Information Publication Scheme||Original||21-Apr-2011 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Part 13 – Information Publication Scheme||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to 28-Jun-2012||
Updated regarding commencement of the IPS (paragraphs 13.1 and 13.12)
|Part 13 – Information Publication Scheme||v1.2||29-Jun-2012 to 24-Jan-2013||
Stylistic changes throughout document
Added information about the OAIC's IPS compliance review program (paragraphs 13.24 and 13.132)
Provided clarification in regard to the listing of officers appointed under statute to a position or role in an agency on the agency's IPS entry (paragraph 13.51)
Removed reference to 2011 annual reports (paragraph 13.54)
Included advice about consultation with affected staff where potential harm could arise from publishing their names in information released under s 8(2)(g) (paragraph 13.64)
Added footnote referring agencies to the Information Commissioner's Guidance for agency websites (paragraph 13.82)
Amended references to guidance from other agencies referred to in the section on ‘Other information to be published under the IPS' (paragraphs 13.106-13.111)
Updated reference providing examples of alert services agencies may provide on their IPS entries (paragraph 13.116)
Rearranged the references to guidance from other agencies about publishing information on the web (paragraph 13.117)
Provided information about agencies' current IPS statistical reporting obligations as of July 2011 and removed references to superseded proposed reporting obligations (paragraph 13.137)
Amended to reference the latest version of the Attorney-General Department's Intellectual Property Manual (paragraph 13.140)
|Part 13 – Information Publication Scheme||v1.3||25-Jan-2013 to ...||
Stylistic changes to website references throughout document.
References to the Guidance for agency websites: ‘Access to information' web page updated and included throughout document, including the annexed IPS agency plan template.
Expanded discussion of IPS website publication requirements to include reference to the ‘Access to information' icon and links to other agency online content (paragraph 13.116).
|Part 14 – Disclosure log||Original||21-Apr-2011 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Part 14 – Disclosure log||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to 28-Jun-2012||
Addition of guidance regarding publication of telephone numbers of officers and publication of edited versions of documents on the disclosure log (paragraphs 14.10 and 14.11)
|Part 14 – Disclosure log||v1.2||29-Jun-2012 to 24-Jan-2013||
Stylistic changes and rearrangement of content throughout document – key changes discussed below
Included reference to Disclosure Log Determination No. 2011-1 (Exempt Documents) (paragraph 14.13)
Added more discussion about what constitutes ‘unreasonable publication' on the disclosure log (paragraphs 14.15–14.19)
As part of the above update, included advice about consultation with affected staff where potential harm could arise from publishing their names in information released on the disclosure log (paragraph 14.18)
Discussed in greater detail considerations about the timing of disclosure log publication (paragraphs 14.21–14.27)
Updated to state the Information Commissioner's preference to release the same information provided to applicants through the disclosure log wherever it is practicable to do so, and to make the information available for direct download (paragraphs 14.30–14.31)
Included additional discussion about the copyright status of agency disclosure logs and referred to the latest version of the Attorney-General Department's Intellectual Property Manual (paragraph 14.38)
Expanded discussion of accessibility of online content as it applies to the disclosure log (paragraphs 14.60–14.63)
Updated regarding statistics agencies and ministers will be required to provide the OAIC about their disclosure log activity (paragraph 14.71)
|Part 14 – Disclosure log||v1.3||25-Jan-2013 to ...||
Stylistic changes to website references throughout document.
Expanded discussion on supplementing the disclosure log where the information originated from internal working papers or other documents not representing the views of the agency, minister or the Government (paragraph 14.36).
Updated discussion of disclosure log discoverability to include reference to the revised Guidance for agency websites: ‘Access to information' web page (paragraph 14.53).
|Part 15 – Reporting||Original||15-Mar-2011 to 10-May-2011||Originally published as Part 14|
|Part 15 – Reporting||v1.1||11-May-2011 to 9 May 2012||Renumbered and updated regarding the IPS and s 9 statements|
|Part 15 – Reporting||v1.2||10-May-2012 to ...||Updated annual report requirements and removal of transitional arrangements for 2010–11|
|Glossary||Original||4-Feb-2011 to 27-Oct-2011|
|Glossary||v1.1||28-Oct-2011 to ...||Terms added|
|Guidance for agency websites||Original||23-Mar-2011 to 11-Sept-2012||Guidance superseded (see Guidance for agency websites: 'Access to information' web page under 'Agency resources')|
Other Freedom of Information guidance
- Guide to the Freedom of Information Act 1982, PDF
- Guidance for agency websites: 'Access to information' web page, PDF
- Documents held by Government Contractors – Agency Obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, PDF (see also Privacy Obligations For Commonwealth Contracts)
- Information Publication Scheme (IPS) and Disclosure Log determinations policy and procedure: PDF, RTF
- Disclosure Log Determination No. 2011-1 (Exempt Documents)
For other practical resources for Australian Government agencies in relation to their FOI and IPS obligations see Agency resources.
- Tax File Number Guidelines (December 2011)
For more information see the Tax File Numbers – information page
Note: Other privacy guidelines produced by the former Office of the Privacy Commissioner which are still current and part of the operational information of the OAIC can be found at www.privacy.gov.au/materials/types/guidelines
Other privacy guidance
- Guide to information security: ‘Reasonable steps’ to protect personal information (April 2013), PDF
- Guide to information security summary, PDF (185KB)
- Australian Privacy Principles and Information Privacy Principles – Comparison Guide (April 2013), PDF
- Australian Privacy Principles and National Privacy Principles – Comparison Guide (April 2013), PDF
- Privacy Impact Assessment Guide (May 2010), PDF
- Data breach notification – A guide to handling personal information security breaches (April 2012), PDF