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Chapter Nine — Agency freedom of information activity

Overview

This chapter reports on the freedom of information (FOI) activity of Australian Government ministers and agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). This chapter and Chapter 8 report on ‘freedom of information matters’ for 2011–12, as required by ss 30(3)(a) and 31 of the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010.

This chapter has been prepared using data collected from ministers and agencies subject to the FOI Act. Ministers and agencies are required to provide, among other details, information about:

  • the number of FOI requests made to them
  • the number of decisions they made granting, partially granting or refusing access, and the number and outcome of applications for internal review under s 54
  • the number and outcome of requests to them to amend personal records under s 48
  • charges collected by them.[6]

On 1 November 2010, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) assumed responsibility from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) for the web-based system for the electronic lodgement of FOI statistical information by agencies. During the reporting period, the OAIC redeveloped that system. The system now allows the collection of information about agencies’ use of exemptions, practical refusal processes, and staff resources and other costs associated with compliance with Information Publication Scheme (IPS) provisions.

Data given by ministers and agencies for the preparation of this annual report was previously published in an appendix to the report that listed the individual statistics for each agency. Commencing this year, the statistics for each agency and ministers are published instead on the OAIC website.

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Requests for access to documents

Types of FOI requests

In this section of this chapter, the term ‘FOI request’ means a request for access to documents under s 15 of the FOI Act. Applications for amendment or annotation of personal records under s 48 are dealt with separately below.

The FOI Act requires that agencies and ministers provide access to documents in response to requests that meet the requirements of s 15 of the FOI Act. The figures in this report do not take account of applications that did not satisfy those requirements.

Numbers of FOI requests received

Between 1 December 1982 (the date the FOI Act commenced) and 30 June 2012, Australian Government agencies and ministers have received 931,403 FOI requests.

Chart 9.1 shows the total number of FOI requests received each year since the commencement of the FOI Act in 1982. (The FOI Act operated for only seven months of the 1982–83 year.)

Chart 9.1: FOI requests received per annum

Link to long text description follows image.

Table 9.1 provides a comparison of the number of FOI requests received in each of the last four reporting years.

Table 9.1 Total FOI requests received 2008–09 to 2011–12
2008–092009–102010–112011–12
27,561 21,587 23,605 24,764

Although there has been a general decrease in the number of FOI requests received by agencies and ministers since a peak in 2003–04, the number of requests received in 2011–12 was 4.9% higher than in 2010–11; 2010–11 saw a 9.3% increase in FOI requests over 2009–10.

Since the commencement of the FOI reforms in November 2010, agencies have reported anecdotally that the number of requests for documents and information, both within and outside the FOI Act, has increased. This may be due in part to greater awareness of the right of access under the FOI Act and of information rights generally following the commencement of the FOI reforms and the establishment of the OAIC.

FOI requests for personal information and for other information

Since 2000–01, agencies and ministers have reported separately the number of FOI requests received for documents containing personal information and for documents containing ‘other’ information. A request for personal information means a request for documents that contain information about a person who can be identified. A request for ‘other’ information means a request for all other documents, such as documents concerning policy development and government decision making.

19,988 (or 80.7%) of FOI requests in 2011–12 were for documents containing personal information. The percentage of such requests has decreased from 82.6% in 2010–11 and 87.2% in 2009–10. Some of this decrease can be attributed to system and process improvements in some larger agencies that has led to the release of personal information outside of the FOI Act.

Details of FOI requests received

In 2011–12, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) continued to receive the majority of FOI requests (72.7%). Commonly, the bulk of requests to these agencies are from customers or clients seeking access to documents containing their own personal information or case file information.

Chart 9.2 shows these agencies’ share of the total number of requests received by all agencies in 2011–12.

Chart 9.2: Major agencies receiving FOI requests 2011–12

DIAC received 8838 FOI requests (35.7%). DHA received 4401 FOI requests (17.8%). DVA received 3791 FOI requests (15.3%). ATO received 973 FOI requests (3.9%). Other agencies received 6761 FOI requests (27.3%).

The 20 agencies that received the largest number of requests in 2011–12 are shown in Table 9.2, with a comparison to the number of requests each received in 2010–11. The top four agencies in 2011–12 (DIAC, DVA, DHS and the ATO), together with Centrelink, were the top five agencies in 2010–11. (On 1 July 2011, Centrelink was integrated into DHS). DIAC and the ATO received more FOI requests in 2011–12 than in 2010–11: a 9.7% increase for DIAC, a 14.2% increase for the ATO. By contrast, the number of requests to DVA fell by 10.9% and to DHS by 12.9% (taking into account the number of requests received in 2010–11 by agencies that were subsequently integrated into DHS).

While the total number of requests to all agencies and ministers received in 2011–12 rose by 4.9%, the number of requests received by some individual agencies rose significantly more. The largest increases were experienced by agencies that in previous years have received relatively few FOI requests: for example, Comcare experienced a 235.1% increase on its 2010–11 figures (37 to 124 requests), the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) a 132.4% increase (71 to 165[7]), and the Commonwealth Ombudsman a 124.7% increase (81 to 182).

Other agencies experiencing significant increases in FOI requests include the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) (52.2% more than in 2010–11), ComSuper (46.7%), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) (39.2%), the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) (35.2%), the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) (34.8%), and the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) (34.3%).

There was a 16.4% increase in the number of FOI requests for other (non-personal) information in 2011–12. This is a significant increase, especially given that an FOI request of this kind typically requires more agency resources to process than a request for personal information. However, this increase is much less than the 48.4% increase in 2010–11. Over the two years, the combined increase in the number of FOI requests for non-personal information was 72.8%.

The 16.4% increase in the number of FOI requests for non-personal information in 2011–12 predominantly occurred in agencies that do not receive many requests. Across the top 20 agencies, the increase was only 2.8%; across the remaining agencies and ministers’ offices it was 48.0%. For example, Comcare’s non-personal requests increased by 381.8% (11 to 53 requests), DFAT’s by 170.3% (37 to 100), and PMC’s by 150.0% (66 to 165). Increases in the number of FOI requests for non-personal information were also experienced by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) (35.1%), DoHA (32.7%), the Trade Marks Office (19.9%) and AGD (15.8%).

Three agencies that were not in the top 20 last year (the Commonwealth Ombudsman, ComSuper and Comcare) moved into this list due to a significant increase in other (non-personal) requests in 2011–12.

FOI requests determined

In 2011–12, agencies and ministers processed FOI requests as follows (previous year figures are in round brackets):

  • on hand at the beginning of the year: 2849 (1874)
  • received during the year: 24,764 (23,605)
  • withdrawn: 2034 (1573)
  • transferred: 909 (861)
  • requiring determination (ie on hand at the beginning of the year or received during the year): 27,613 (25,479)
  • determined (ie access granted in full or in part, or refused): 22,237 (20,187)
  • finalised (ie withdrawn, transferred or determined): 25,180 (22,621)
  • on hand at the end of the year (ie requiring determination but not finalised): 2433 (2858).

The number of FOI requests on hand at the end of 2011–12 was 14.9% less than at the end of 2010–11. This may indicate that agencies have adjusted their work practices to better deal with the increased number of FOI requests received since the reforms of November 2010. However, the number of FOI requests on hand at the end of 2010–11 was 52.0% more than at the end of 2009–10 (before the reforms commenced).

The number of requests transferred to other agencies has increased over each of the last three reporting years: by 28.0% in 2009–10, by 23.9% in 2010–11, and by 5.6% in 2011–12. This trend may result from the increase in non-personal requests and the greater complexity of those requests, which means applicants may not in the first instance address their request to the agency that holds the documents they seek. Another contributing factor may be that a higher proportion of such documents relate to joint agency activity.

The increase in the number of transferred requests has the potential to lead to delays in FOI processing if the transferring agencies fail to quickly action transfers.

Table 9.2 Top 20 agencies FOI requests received
AGENCY2010–112011–12Change Total
RankPersonalOtherTotal%RankPersonalOtherTotal%
Department of Immigration and Citizenship 1 7783 274 8057 34.1 1 8667 171 8838 35.7 +781
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 2 4916 21 4937 20.9 2 4379 22 4401 17.8 -536
Department of Human Services† 4298† 54† 4352† 18.4 3 3716 75 3791 15.3 -561
Australian Taxation Office 4 275 577 852 3.6 4 385 588 973 3.9 +121
Migration Review Tribunal 6 373 0 373 1.6 5 467 0 467 1.9 +94
Refugee Review Tribunal 9 331 3 334 1.6 6 380 6 386 1.6 +52
Australian Federal Police 10 267 77 344 1.5 7 277 104 381 1.5 +37
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 7 231 139 370 1.6 8 233 136 369 1.5 -1
Trade Marks Office 11 0 302 302 1.3 9 0 362 362 1.5 +60
Department of Health
and Ageing
12 1 266 267 1.1 10 8 353 361 1.5 +94
Department of Defence 8 203 159 362 1.5 11 195 139 334 1.3 -28
Attorney-General’s Department 13 50 183 233 1.0 12 102 212 314 1.3 +81
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 14 23 171 194 0.8 13 78 192 270 1.1 +76
Common­wealth Ombudsman* n/a 77 4 81 0.30 14 182 0 182 0.7 +101
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 15 78 37 115 0.5 15 75 100 175 0.7 +60
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 17 5 66 71 0.3 16 0 165 165 0.7 +94
Department of the Treasury 16 0 148 148 0.6 17 9 146 155 0.6 +7
Department of Finance and Deregulation 19 1 101 102 0.4 18 14 123 137 0.6 +35
ComSuper* n/a 90 0 90 0.40 19 131 1 132 0.5 +42
Comcare* n/a 26 11 37 0.20 20 71 53 124 0.5 +87
Top 20   18,877^ 2866^ 21,743^ 92.1   19,369 2948 22,317 90.1 +573
Remaining agencies   627 1235 1862 7.9   619 1828 2447 9.9 +585
Total   19,504 4101 23,605 100   19,988 4776 24,764 100 N/A

† On 1 July 2011, Centrelink (ranked 3 in 2010–11) and Medicare Australia were integrated into DHS (ranked 5). In 2010–11, those three agencies received 3780, 30 and 542 FOI requests respectively. The separate figures for those agencies have been combined in the 2010–11 columns for DHS to allow comparison with the 2011–12 figures.

* Denotes an agency not listed in the top 20 agencies in 2010–11.

^ Shows the total for 2011–12 top 20 agencies (ie includes figures for three agencies missing from the 2011–12 Top 20 agencies).

Table 9.3 shows how FOI requests were determined in 2011–12 compared with the previous year, broken into requests for personal and other (non-personal) information.

Table 9.3 FOI requests determined
Decision2010–112011–12
PersonalOtherTotal%PersonalOtherTotal%
Granted in full 11,460 839 12,299 60.9 12,157 995 13,152 59.1
Granted in part 4866 1127 5993 29.7 4942 1569 6511 29.3
Refused 1205 690 1895 9.4 1631 943 2574 11.6
Total 17,531 2656 20,187 100.0 18,730 3507 22,237 100.0

In each of the last four reporting years there has been a decrease in the proportion of requests granted in full: 71.0% were granted in full in 2008–09, 63.8% in 2009–10, 60.9% in 2010–11, and 59.1% in 2011–12. This decrease applies to requests for both personal and for other information.

In each of the last four reporting years there has also been a decrease in the proportion of requests granted in full or in part: 93.9% were granted in full or in part in 2008–09; 92.5% in 2009–10; 90.6% in 2010–11; and 88.4% in 2011–12.

As the majority of requests across Australian Government agencies are for personal information it is to be expected that the proportion of requests granted in full or in part will be high given the presumption that access must be given to a person’s own information. But, as discussed above, the proportion of FOI requests that are for personal information continues to decrease. Processing FOI requests for non-personal information is generally more complex and more likely to result in access being refused or granted only in part. As the proportion of these non-personal requests increases, the proportion of FOI requests granted in full can be expected to decrease.

The figures for FOI requests that are refused includes cases in which the documents sought do not exist or cannot be found, as well as cases in which exemptions have been applied.

Table 9.4 lists the top 20 agencies by the number of FOI decisions they have made.

Table 9.4 shows significant differences in the outcome of FOI requests between those agencies processing the largest number of requests in 2011–12. Six of the top 20 agencies refused more than 35% of the FOI requests they received during 2011–12: AGD refused 62.3%, Comcare 56.7%, ASIC 50.9%, Treasury 48.7%, PMC 45.0% and DoHA 36.9%. Eight of the top 20 agencies refused fewer than 10% of the FOI requests they received: the DVA refused 1.1%; the Refugee Review Tribunal 2%, Trade Marks Office 2.2%, ComSuper 2.4%, Migration Review Tribunal 3.3%, Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority 7.2%, DHS 8.4%, the DIAC 9%.

Table 9.4 Top 20 agencies by numbers of FOI requests determined
AgencyGranted in full%Granted in part%Refused%Total
Department of Immigration and Citizenship 5109 58.2 2885 32.8 790 9.0 8784
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 3908 97.7 50 1.2 44 1.1 4002
Department of Human Services 2192 60.8 1114 30.9 302 8.4 3608
Australian Taxation Office 227 23.6 546 56.8 188 19.6 961
Trade Marks Office 188 58.8 125 39.1 7 2.2 320
Australian Federal Police 30 9.9 189 62.4 84 27.7 303
Refugee Review Tribunal 148 58.5 100 39.5 5 2.0 253
Department of Defence 74 29.5 142 56.6 35 13.9 251
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 165 65.7 55 21.9 31 12.4 251
Department of Health and Ageing 42 17.4 110 45.6 89 36.9 241
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 70 32.4 36 16.7 110 50.9 216
Attorney-General’s Department 33 16.2 44 21.6 127 62.3 204
Common­wealth Ombudsman 50 29.9 82 49.1 35 21.0 167
Migration Review Tribunal 69 46.0 76 50.7 5 3.3 150
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 35 23.8 84 57.1 28 19.0 147
ComSuper 114 90.5 9 7.1 3 2.4 126
Comcare 18 15.0 34 28.3 68 56.7 120
Department of the Treasury 14 12.4 44 38.9 55 48.7 113
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 22 22.0 33 33.0 45 45.0 100
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority 42 43.3 48 49.5 7 7.2 97
Top 20 12,550 61.5 5806 28.4 2058 10.1 20,414
Remaining Agencies 602 33.0 705 38.7 516 28.3 1823
Total 13,152 59.1 6511 29.3 2574 11.6 22,237

Use of exemptions and practical refusal

Table 9.5 shows how Australian Government agencies and ministers claimed exemptions under the FOI Act when processing FOI requests in 2011–12. More than one exemption might be applied in processing a given FOI requests.

Table 9.5 Use of exemptions in FOI decisions
FOI Act referenceExemptionPersonalOtherTotal%
s 33 Documents affecting national security, defence or international relations 66 128 194 0.9
s 34 Cabinet documents 0 100 100 0.5
s 37 Documents affecting enforcement of law and protection of public safety 856 139 995 4.5
s 38 Documents to which secrecy provisions of enactments apply 346 122 468 2.1
s 42 Documents subject to legal professional privilege 152 178 330 1.5
s 45 Documents containing material obtained in confidence 94 132 226 1.0
s 46 Documents disclosure of which would be contempt of Parliament or contempt of court 9 13 22 0.1
s 47 Documents disclosing trade secrets or commercially valuable information 194 138 332 1.5
s 47A Electoral rolls and related documents 1 0 1 0.0
s 47B Commonwealth-State relations 53 66 119 0.5
s 47C Deliberative processes 107 225 332 1.5
s 47D Financial or property interests of the Commonwealth 6 5 11 0.0
s 47E Certain operations of agencies 429 209 638 2.9
s 47F Personal privacy 3220 630 3850 17.3
s 47G Business 111 289 400 1.8
s 47H Research 1 4 5 0.0
s 47J The economy 0 4 4 0.0
Total   5645 2382 8027 36.1

In 12,844 (57.8%) requests, no exemption was claimed by the agency or minister. Because the majority of requests made to Australian Government agencies are for access to personal information this result is to be expected. One or more exemptions were reported in 36.1% of requests determined.

The personal privacy exemption in s 47F of the FOI Act was the most-claimed exemption, being used in 17.3% of FOI requests. The next most-claimed exemptions were s 37 (documents affecting enforcement of law and protection of public safety) in 4.5% of requests and s 47E (certain operations of agencies) in 2.9%.

Section 24AB of the FOI Act sets out a ‘request consultation process’ which must be undertaken if a ‘practical refusal reason’ exists (s 24AA). A practical refusal reason exists if the work involved in processing the FOI request would substantially and unreasonably divert the agency’s resources from its other operations, or the FOI request does not adequately identify the documents sought.

The request consultation process involves the agency sending a written notice to the FOI applicant advising them that it intends to refuse the request and providing details of how the FOI applicant can consult with the agency. The FOI Act imposes an obligation on the agency to take reasonable steps to help the FOI applicant to revise their request so that the practical refusal reason no longer exists.

Table 9.6 provides information about how Australian Government agencies and ministers engaged in request consultation processes under s 24AB of the FOI Act in 2011–12 and the outcome of those processes.

Table 9.6 Use of practical refusal
Notified in writing of intention to refuse requestRequest was subsequently refused or withdrawnRequest was subsequently processed
PersonalOtherTotalPersonalOtherTotal%PersonalOtherTotal%
121 193 314 117 139 256 81.5 4 54 58 18.5

Two aspects of the figures in Table 9.6 are noteworthy. First, the request consultation process is used more frequently in relation to non-personal information requests than personal information requests (61.5% of the total of 314). This may reflect the greater difficulty that applicants face in framing requests for non-personal information that are manageable for agencies and not costly for applicants. The outcome of the consultation process was that 54 non-personal information requests (28%) were subsequently processed and 139 (72%) were refused or withdrawn. Secondly, only a small number of personal information requests (4, or 3.3%) were subsequently processed following a consultation process. It is not readily apparent why this figure is so low, bearing in mind that there is no FOI charge for access to personal records. It may be that individuals are less inclined to take the time to refine personal information requests.

Time taken to respond to FOI requests

As a starting point, an agency or minister has 30 days within which to make a decision under the FOI Act once an FOI request has been received. The FOI Act allows for the extension of that statutory timeframe in certain circumstances. If a decision is not made on a request within the statutory timeframe (as extended, if applicable) then s 15AC of the FOI Act provides that a decision refusing access is deemed to have been made. Nonetheless, agencies can — and are encouraged to — continue to process a request that has been deemed to have been refused. If an applicant seeks Information Commissioner review (IC review) of a deemed decision, s 55G provides that the agency can only make a substituted decision that is more favourable to the applicant while that IC review is under way.

An agency may extend the period of time to make a decision by agreement with the applicant (s 15AA), or to undertake consultation with a third party (s 15(6)–(8)). An agency can also apply to the Information Commissioner for more time to process a request when the request is complex or voluminous (s 15AB), or when access has been deemed to be refused (ss 15AC or 51DA) or affirmed on internal review (s 54D). These extension provisions acknowledge that there are circumstances when it is appropriate for an agency to take more than 30 days to process a request.

When an agency has obtained an extension of time to deal with an FOI request, and resolves the request within the extended time period, the request is recorded as having been determined within the statutory time period.

Table 9.7 shows the response times for all agencies and ministers from the commencement of the new provisions in November 2010 until the end of 2011–12. The majority of FOI requests (88.5%) were processed within the applicable statutory time period in 2011–12: 90% of personal information requests and 75.8% of other requests. This is an improvement on the 2010–11 figure of 84.2% for all requests.

Table 9.7 Response times — FOI requests
Response time1 November 2010–
30 June 2011
2011–12
PersonalOtherTotal%PersonalOtherTotal%
Applicable statutory time period 10,110 1264 11,374 84.2 17,015 2660 19,675 88.5
Up to 30 days over the applicable statutory time period 488 345 833 6.2 964 394 1358 6.1
31–60 days over the applicable statutory time period 454 205 659 4.9 388 192 580 2.6
61–90 days over the applicable statutory time period 172 118 290 2.1 171 156 327 1.5
More than 90 days over the applicable statutory time period 253 95 348 2.6 192 105 297 1.3
Total 11,477 2027 13,504 100.0 18,730 3507 22,237 100.0

Table 9.8 shows those agencies and ministers that had one or more FOI requests that took more than 90 days to finalise in 2011–12 beyond the applicable statutory time period.

Six agencies and one minister took more than 90 days to process more than 5% of their total FOI requests. While DIAC had the greatest number of applications over 90 days, such applications comprised only 2% of the total number of FOI requests it processed during 2011–12.

Table 9.8 Response times greater than 90 days 2011–12
AgencyTotal requests determinedGreater than 90 days% of total
Department of Immigration and Citizenship 8784 177 2.0
Australian Federal Police 303 30 9.9
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 147 25 17.0
Department of Health and Ageing 241 19 7.9
Department of Human Services 3608 15 0.4
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 4002 6 0.1
Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education 54 5 9.3
Department of the Prime Minister
and Cabinet
100 4 4.0
Comcare 120 3 2.5
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 6 2 33.3
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 43 2 4.7
Minister for Foreign Affairs 2 2 100.0
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 216 2 0.9
Australian Taxation Office 961 2 0.2
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service 95 1 1.1
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 44 1 2.3
Australian Transport Safety Bureau 9 1 11.1

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Applications for amendment of personal records

Section 48 of the FOI Act confers a right on a person to apply to an agency or to a Minister to amend a document, to which lawful access has been granted, where the document contains personal information about the applicant:

  • that is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading, and
  • that has been used, is being used, or is available for use by the agency or Minister for an administrative purpose.

In 2011–12, 3518 amendment applications were received by agencies (none were received by ministers). There has been a decrease in the number of amendment applications received in each of the last three reporting years: 5.0% fewer in 2011–12 (184 fewer), 20.0% fewer in 2010–11, and 26.4% fewer in 2009–10. Only 10 agencies received applications for amendment in 2011–12. One department, DIAC, received 3490 (99.2% of all) amendment applications.

3564 amendment applications were determined in 2011–12. This is 128 fewer than in the previous year, a decrease of 3.5%. Table 9.9 compares the decision making for amendment applications for the last two reporting years. In 2011–12, a decision to amend or annotate a person’s personal record was made in 73% of applications, a slightly smaller proportion than in 2010–11 (77.4%).

Table 9.9 Determination of amendment applications
Determination2010–11%2011–12%
Requests granted: amend record 2367 64.1 1884 52.9
Requests granted: annotate record 487 13.2 717 20.1
Requests granted: amend and annotate record 2 0.1 2 0.0
Requests refused 836 22.6 961 27.0
Total determined 3692 100.0 3564 100.0

Time taken to respond to amendment applications

An agency is required to notify an applicant of a decision on their application to amend personal records as soon as practicable, but in any case not later than 30 days after the date the request is received, or a longer period as extended under the FOI Act.

In 2011–12, the majority of requests (93.2%) were decided within the statutory time period. 238 of the 243 requests not processed within the statutory time period were applications filed with DIAC.

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Charges

Under the Freedom of Information (Charges) Regulations 1982 (the Charges Regulations), FOI charges apply only to an initial access decision under Part III of the Act. There is no charge for making an application:

  • for access to a document under s 15
  • for amendment or annotation of a personal record under s 48
  • for internal review of a decision under s 54 or s 54A
  • for IC review of a decision under s 54L or s 54M.

A fee is payable for an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for review of a decision under Part VIIA.

Charges that agencies can impose for processing FOI requests include charges for search and retrieval time, decision making, retrieving and collating electronic information, preparing transcripts and photocopying. An agency or minister has a discretion to impose or not impose a charge, or impose a charge that is lower than the applicable charge under reg 3 of the Charges Regulations.

Section 29 of the FOI Act provides for an agency or Minister to impose charges in respect of FOI requests, and the process by which they are assessed, notified and adjusted. The applicant must be given notice in writing when an agency or minister decides under the Charges Regulations that the applicant is liable to pay a charge. The notice must specify that the applicant is liable to pay a charge, the preliminary assessment of the charge to be paid, the basis of calculation and the applicant’s right to contend that the charge has been wrongly assessed or should be reduced or waived.

The applicant must, within 30 days, or such further period allowed by the agency, agree to pay the charge, dispute the charge, seek a waiver or reduction, or withdraw the FOI request. When an applicant asks that the charge be reduced or not imposed, the agency must consider the applicant’s reasons and may decide to reduce the charge or to not impose it.

Table 9.10 shows the amounts collected by the 20 agencies that collected the most in charges under the FOI Act in 2011–12. These 20 agencies collected 94.1% of all charges collected by Australian Government agencies and ministers under the FOI Act during that period.

Table 9.10 Top 20 agencies for charges
AgencyRequests receivedRequests where charges notifiedTotal charges notifiedTotal charges collected
Department of Health and Ageing 361 137 $448,073 $173,678
Australian Taxation Office 973 27 $46,049 $57,271
Trade Marks Office 362 151 $32,438 $19,281
Australian Pesticides and
Veterinary Medicines Authority
99 80 $21,702 $15,800
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 72 19 $27,138 $13,744
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 369 110 $64,942 $12,649
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 175 44 $29,590 $12,566
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 53 18 $34,242 $8989
Department of Defence 334 92 $31,254 $8803
Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry
105 32 $24,058 $8423
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 270 58 $14,451 $7758
National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority 9 6 $6968 $7692
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 120 39 $89,048 $7411
Department of the Treasury 155 68 $57,982 $7250
Department of Infrastructure and Transport 67 38 $43,371 $6882
Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency 94 43 $21,404 $6282
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service 116 8 $14,222 $6277
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 4401 119 $7610 $5940
Civil Aviation Safety Authority 89 4 $17,756 $5051
Department of Finance and Deregulation 137 67 $30,119 $4538
Top 20 8361 1160 $1,062,417 $396,285
Remaining agencies 16,403 263 $475,454 $25,013
Total 24,764 1423 $1,537,871 $421,298

In 2011–12, agencies notified a total of $1,537,871 in charges, with respect to 1423 requests, but collected only $421,298 (27.5%) of those charges. This difference is due to the agency exercising its discretion under s 29 of the FOI Act not to impose the whole charge, or the applicant deciding to withdraw their application and not pay the notified charge. In 2010–11, agencies notified a total of $3,207,827 in charges, with respect to 1456 requests, but collected only $536,318 (16.7%) of those charges.

Charges collected in 2011–12 represented 1.0% of the total cost of administering the FOI Act (see below). In 2010–11, fees[8] and charges collected represented 1.7% of the total cost; in 2009–10 they represented 1.9%.

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Review of FOI decisions

Under the FOI Act, an applicant who is dissatisfied with the decision of a minister or an agency on their initial FOI request has several avenues for review or redress. The applicant can first seek internal review; then external merits review by the Information Commissioner (IC review); then review by the AAT; then appeal, on a question of law, to the Federal Court or the High Court. In addition, an applicant may make a complaint at any time to the Information Commissioner about an agency’s actions under the FOI Act.

Third parties that have been consulted in the FOI process — state governments (ss 26A and 26AA), the Australian Government in relation to FOI requests made to a Norfolk Island authority (s 26AA), commercial organisations (s 27) and private individuals (s 27A) — also have review rights if an agency decides to release documents contrary to their submissions.

Section 23 of the FOI Act provides that decisions on requests made to an agency can be made by the responsible minister or the principal officer of that agency, or by authorised officers of the agency. There is no express power in the FOI Act for a minister to authorise another person to make a decision on an FOI request received by the minister. The Information Commissioner’s view is that it is nevertheless open to a minister to authorise members of the minister’s staff or of an agency to make such decisions.

Internal review

A person who is dissatisfied with an agency’s access refusal or access grant decision can apply either for internal review or IC review of that decision. Internal review is not available if the initial decision maker is the responsible minister or the principal officer of the agency. Although there is no requirement to do so, the Information Commissioner recommends that a person apply for internal review before applying for IC review.

Internal review is a merits review process. The internal review officer can decide all issues raised by an applicant’s FOI request, and exercise all the powers available to the original decision maker. The internal review officer may rely on work undertaken by the original decision maker, or may cause the same work to be undertaken again. All the material available to the original decision maker should be available to the internal review officer. The internal review officer may consider additional material or submissions not considered by the original decision maker.

In 2011–12, 496 requests were made for internal review of FOI decisions: 18.4% more than in 2010–11 which, in turn, was 7.7% more than in 2009–10. Of these, 223 (45.0%) were for review of decisions on requests for personal information and 273 were for review of decisions on other requests.

Agencies made 423 decisions on internal review: 1.0% more than were made in each of 2010–11 and 2009–10. Of these, 204 (48.4%) affirmed the original decision, 48 (11.3%) set aside the original decision and granted access in full, 128 granted access in part, two granted access after a period of deferment, six granted access in another form, six resulted in lesser access and eight applications were withdrawn without concession by the agency. Agencies reduced the charges levied as a result of internal review in 21 cases.

There were 87 requests for internal review of decisions on amendment applications, 24 (37.9%) more than in 2010–11. In 21 cases, the decision under review was set aside, while the decision was affirmed in 58 cases.

Information Commissioner review

Table 9.11 provides a breakdown by agency and minister of IC review applications received in 2011–12, where the agency or minister was the subject of more than one IC review. In total, there were 456 applications for IC review.

Table 9.11 Information Commissioner review where the agency/minister was the subject of more than one IC review
Agency/ministerAccess refusal decisionAccess grant decisionTotal
Department of Immigration and Citizenship 66 0 66
Department of Human Services 46 2 48
Australian Taxation Office 43 4 47
Australian Federal Police 35 0 35
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 19 2 21
Department of Health and Ageing 20 0 20
Australian Crime Commission 13 0 13
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 13 0 13
Attorney-General’s Department 11 0 11
Department of Education, Employment and
Workplace Relations
9 0 9
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 9 0 9
Department of the Treasury 9 0 9
Department of Defence 8 0 8
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 8 0 8
Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism 6 1 7
Australian Broadcasting Corporation 6 0 6
Civil Aviation Safety Authority 5 1 6
Commonwealth Ombudsman 6 0 6
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 5 0 5
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 5 0 5
Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 5 0 5
Department of Finance and Deregulation 4 1 5
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 5 0 5
Fair Work Ombudsman 0 5 5
IP Australia including Trade Marks Office 3 2 5
Therapeutic Goods Administration 3 2 5
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service 4 0 4
Australian Prudential Regulation Authority 4 0 4
Department of Infrastructure and Transport 4 0 4
NBN Co Limited 4 0 4
Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions 4 0 4
Australian Maritime Safety Authority 3 0 3
Australian Postal Corporation 3 0 3
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 3 0 3
Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education 3 0 3
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 3 0 3
Office of the Prime Minister 3 0 3
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority 1 1 2
National Archives of Australia 2 0 2
Subtotal 403 21 424
Remaining agencies/ministers 29 3 32
Total 432 24 456

Unsurprisingly, the agencies against which the most IC review applications were made are generally those agencies that received the largest number of FOI requests. The Information Commissioner received 66 applications for IC review against DIAC, 14.5% of the total; DIAC receives 35.7% of all FOI requests and 99.2% of all amendment applications. Twenty or more IC review applications were made against each of DIAC, DHS, the ATO, AFP, ASIC and DoHA; each of those agencies (except ASIC) is in the top 10 agencies in terms of FOI requests received.

There are only three agencies in the top 20 agencies in terms of FOI requests received against which no IC review applications were received in 2011–12: the Refugee Review Tribunal, the Trade Marks Office and ComSuper. The Migration Review Tribunal and Comcare are also in the top 20, but only one application for IC review was received against each of them.

Agencies that do not receive large numbers of applications, but against which a comparatively large number of IC review applications were received include the Australian Crime Commission (13 IC review applications in 2011–12), the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (7) and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (6).

Information about the Information Commissioner’s handling of IC reviews is given in Chapter 8.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal review

An application can be made to the AAT for review of the following FOI decisions:

  • a decision of the Information Commissioner on an IC review
  • an Information Commissioner reviewable decision (that is, an original decision or an internal review decision), but only if the Information Commissioner decides, under s 54W(b), that the interests of the administration of the FOI Act make it desirable that the Information Commissioner reviewable decision be considered by the AAT.

An application for the review of one of these decisions may be made by a person whose interests are affected by the decision.[9] As with IC review, the AAT conducts a merits review process.

The AAT’s decisions are appealable to the Federal Court of Australia, but only on a question of law. The fee for an application to the AAT increases on each biennial anniversary of 1 July 1996, based on a calculation related to the Consumer Price Index. The fee during the reporting period was $777.

The AAT continues to receive and to decide applications that arise from FOI requests made prior to 1 November 2010 and that cannot be the subject of IC review. Indeed, the majority of AAT applications and decisions referred to in Chart 9.3, Table 9.12 and Table 9.13 are in that category. Only one published decision of the AAT during the reporting year was a review of an IC review decision.[10]

Chart 9.3 shows the number of FOI applications received by the AAT since 1983–84.

Chart 9.3: FOI applications lodged with the AAT since 1983–84

Link to long text description follows image.

Chart 9.3 shows that the number of FOI decisions appealed to the AAT dropped from 82 in 2010–11 to 20 in 2011–12: a 75.6% reduction. This reduction is no doubt due to the fact that external merits review of decisions made on FOI requests filed after 1 November 2010 lies first with the Information Commissioner; before that date external merits review lay with the AAT alone.

Table 9.12 provides a breakdown by agency of applications to the AAT in FOI matters in 2011–12. This data has been provided by the AAT.

Table 9.12 AAT reviews by agency
AgencyApplications% of total applications
Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2 10.0
Australian Federal Police 1 5.0
Australian Taxation Office 8 40.0
Department of Defence 2 10.0
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1 5.0
Department of Human Services 2 10.0
National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority 2 10.0
Official Secretary to the Governor General 1 5.0
Registrar of Indigenous Corporations 1 5.0
Total 20 100.0

Table 9.13 shows the outcome of decided applications to the AAT. This data has been provided by the AAT.

Table 9.13 Outcomes of decided applications to the AAT 2011–12
By consent/withdrawnNumberBy decisionNumberOtherNumber
Affirmed 0 Affirmed 11 Dismissed by Tribunal 3
Set aside 1 Set Aside 7 No application fee paid 0
Varied 3 Varied 5 Extension of time refused 0
Dismissed 1        
Withdrawn 10        

Twenty-three (56.6%) of the applications to the AAT resulted in decisions being made by the Tribunal. The Tribunal affirmed the agency’s decision in 11 reviews (47.8% of all applications decided).

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Complaints about agency FOI actions

Complaints to the Information Commissioner

Information about the Information Commissioner’s handling of FOI complaints is given in Chapter 8.

Complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman

Before 1 November 2010 complaints about the handling of FOI requests by Australian Government agencies (including decisions, delays, and refusal or failure to act) were made to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Since the establishment of the OAIC on 1 November 2010, complaints about agencies’ handling of FOI requests are now primarily dealt with by the OAIC. The Ombudsman may still investigate FOI complaints when it would be more appropriate or effective (for example, when the FOI complaint is one part of a wider grievance about an agency’s actions).

In 2011–12, the Ombudsman received 45 complaints and approaches about FOI matters, 69.2% fewer than the 146 received in the previous year. The Ombudsman transferred 12 complaints to the OAIC under s 6C of the Ombudsman Act 1976 during 2011–12. The Ombudsman investigated four FOI complaints and declined to investigate a further 29.

Of the four complaints the Commonwealth Ombudsman did investigate (one against the ATO and three against DHS), three complaints were finalised on the basis that further investigation was not warranted, while the fourth was finalised on the basis that the matter was being considered by a Court and as a consequence further investigation was not warranted.

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Impact of FOI on agency resources

To assess the impact on agency resources of their compliance with the FOI Act, agencies are required to estimate the staff-hours spent on FOI matters and the non-labour costs directly attributable to FOI, such as training and legal costs. Agencies submit these estimates annually. Experience shows that agencies rarely keep exact records of hours spent by officers on FOI matters and other non-labour costs incurred. Agency estimates may also include FOI processing work undertaken on behalf of a minister’s office.

For the first time, agencies also reported on their costs of compliance with the IPS. To facilitate comparison with the information in previous annual reports, those IPS costs are not included in this analysis of the cost of agency compliance with the FOI Act, but are discussed separately below.

The total reported cost attributable to the FOI Act in 2011–12 was $41.719 million, an increase of $5.401 million (or 14.9%) on the previous year’s total cost of $36.318 million. This increase occurred despite (as discussed above) an increase of only 4.9% in the number of FOI requests received, and a decrease of 5.0% in the number of amendment applications received. Total yearly FOI costs figures since the commencement of the FOI Act are shown in Table 9.14.[11]

Table 9.14 Comparative total yearly cost of FOI
YearTotal costYearTotal costYearTotal cost
1982–83* $7,502,355 1992–93 $12,702,329 2002–03 $18,398,181
1983–84 $15,106,511 1993–94 $13,977,360 2003–04 $20,189,136
1984–85 $16,496,961 1994–95 $11,955,482 2004–05 $22,860,022
1985–86 $15,711,889 1995–96 $14,564,562 2005–06 $24,903,771
1986–87 $13,336,864 1996–97 $15,972,950 2006–07 $24,936,178
1987–88 $11,506,931 1997–98 $12,191,478 2007–08 $29,474,653
1988–89 $10,494,376 1998–99 $13,066,029 2008–09 $30,358,484
1989–90 $10,373,321 1999–2000 $14,035,394 2009–10 $27,484,129
1990–91 $9,921,772 2000–01 $14,415,406 2010–11 $36,318,030
1991–92 $12,723,097 2001–02 $17,387,088 2011–12 $41,718,803

* Seven months only.

Table 9.15 sets out the average cost per FOI request determined (the sum of FOI requests granted in full, in part or refused) from 2000–01 to 2011–12. The average cost per request determined in 2011–12 was $1876, 4.3% more than in the previous year.

Table 9.15 Average cost per request
YearRequests determinedTotal costAverage cost per request determined
2002–03 38,370 $18,398,181 $479
2003–04 39,774 $20,189,136 $508
2004–05 36,827 $22,860,022 $621
2005–06 38,987 $24,903,771 $639
2006–07 34,158 $24,936,178 $730
2007–08 31,367 $29,474,653 $940
2008–09 25,139 $30,358,484 $1208
2009–10 19,583 $27,484,129 $1403
2010–11 20,187 $36,318,030 $1799
2011–12 22,237 $41,718,803 $1876

Chart 9.4 shows the relation of total costs to FOI requests received for each year since 1982–83.

Chart 9.4: FOI costs in relation to request numbers

Link to long text description follows image.

Staff costs

All agencies are required to supply information about staff resources allocated to FOI. This information includes:

  • the number of staff who spent 75% or more of their time on FOI work
  • the number of staff who spent less than 75% of their time on such work.

This covers all facets of agencies’ processing FOI requests, including:

  • search and retrieval
  • consultation with third parties
  • decision making
  • internal review
  • FOI processing work for a minister’s office.

Totals of FOI staffing across all Australian Government agencies for 2010–11 and 2011–12 are shown in Table 9.16.

Table 9.16 Total FOI staffing for 2010–11 and 2011–12
Staffing2010–11*2011–12
Staff numbers: 75–100% time spent on FOI matters 213* 249
Staff numbers: less than 75% time spent on FOI matters 2431* 3722
Total staff hours 511,986 576,824
Total staff years 256.0 288.4

* Staff numbers for 2010–11 are a weighted average of numbers for the period before the commencement of the FOI reforms (1 July 2010 to 31 October 2010) and for the period afterwards (1 November 2010 to 30 June 2011)

Agencies provided estimates of the number of staff hours spent on FOI to enable calculation of salary costs (and 60% related costs) directly attributable to FOI. A summary of staff costs is provided in Table 9.17, based on information provided by agencies and the following median base annual salaries:[12]

  • officers whose duties included FOI work $ 68,092[13]
  • other officers involved in processing requests
    • Senior Executive Service officers (or equivalent) $164,575[14]
    • APS Level 6 and Executive Levels (EL) 1–2 $99,378[15]
    • Australian Public Service (APS) Levels 1–5 $56,215[16]
  • Minister’s office
    • Minister and advisers $124,410[17]
    • Minister’s support staff $56,215[18]
Table 9.17 Estimated staff costs of FOI for 2011–12
Type of staffStaff yearsSalary costsRelated costs (60%)Total staff costs
Officers whose duties included FOI work 228 $15,520,788 $9,312,473 $24,833,261
Other officers involved in processing requests:        
SES 6 $984,899 $590,939 $1,575,839
APS Level 6 and
Executive Levels 1–2
36 $3,581,136 $2,148,682 $5,729,817
APS Levels 1–5 18 $999,446 $599,668 $1,599,114
Ministerial staff:        
Minister and advisers 1 $63,746 $38,248 $101,993
Minister’s support staff 0 $9,051 $5430 $14,481
Total 288 $21,159,066 $12,695,440 $33,854,506

Total estimated staff costs in 2011–12 were $33.855m, 13.0% more than in the previous year.

Non-labour costs

Non-labour costs directly attributable to FOI are summarised in Table 9.18. The total in 2011–12 was $7.864 million, 23.6% more than in the previous year.

Table 9.18 Identified non-labour costs of FOI
Item2010–112011–12% change
Photocopying $375,875 n/a n/a
Printing $47,569 n/a n/a
Purchase of material $31,313 n/a n/a
Postage $96,996 n/a n/a
Telephone $54,186 n/a n/a
Travel $94,626 n/a n/a
General administrative costs $700,565 $600,310 -14.3%
Solicitors’ fees $4,493,897 n/a n/a
Legal counsel fees $497,759 n/a n/a
Applicants’ litigation costs $0 n/a n/a
General legal advice costs n/a $5,323,951 n/a
Litigation costs n/a $1,229,393 n/a
General legal costs $4,991,656 $6,553,344 31.3%
Training $388,207 $398,373 2.6%
Other $282,897 $312,270 10.4%
Total $6,363,324 $7,864,297 23.6%

Average cost per FOI request

The average staff-days per request ranged from 0.1 to 33.4 days, with the overall average being 3.1 days; it was 2.9 days in 2010–11. The average cost per request ranged from $42 to $94,212, with the overall average being $1685 — an increase of 9.5% on the previous year’s average of $1539.

Table 9.19 lists the agencies/ministers that recorded an average cost of less than $200 per request received in 2011–12.

Table 9.19 Agencies/ministers with average cost per request less than $200
AgencyRequests receivedAverage cost per request
Australian Institute of Criminology 5 $42
Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Corporation 1 $54
Australian War Memorial 4 $58
National Gallery of Australia 2 $62
Minister for Foreign Affairs 2 $72
Migration Review Tribunal 467 $75
Federal Court of Australia 6 $77
Minister for Human Services 1 $80
Refugee Review Tribunal 386 $110
Australian Maritime Safety Authority 47 $115
Australian Electoral Commission 5 $130
Minister for Employment Participation 1 $154
Aboriginal Hostels Limited 2 $155
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 4401 $166
Department of the Senate 6 $176
National Competition Council 1 $186

Table 9.20 lists the agencies that recorded an average cost of more than $10,000 per request in 2011–12.

Table 9.20 Agencies with average cost per request greater than $10,000
AgencyRequests receivedAverage cost per request
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation 1 $94,212
Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner 2 $79,862
Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 1 $54,144
National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority 9 $29,710
Future Fund Management Agency 4 $22,089
Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education 83 $16,135
Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 43 $15,960
Geoscience Australia 2 $15,650
Tax Practitioners Board 13 $14,573

Some of the agencies listed in Table 9.20 advised the OAIC that they had not previously received any FOI requests, or had not received any in the previous year. For some of these agencies, processing FOI requests in 2011–12 involved familiarisation with the amended FOI Act and the development of processes to handle FOI requests in the future. Other agencies attributed their high processing costs to complex proceedings in the AAT.

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Impact of Information Publication Scheme on agency resources

2011–12 was the first reporting year for which agencies were required to provide information about the costs of meeting their obligations under the Information Publication Scheme (IPS), which commenced on 1 May 2011. Further information about the IPS is given in Chapter 8.

The total reported cost attributable to compliance with the IPS in 2011–12 was $3.798 million. Some agencies did not report any cost of their IPS compliance separate from their costs of complying with the FOI Act (discussed above). This may be because those agencies were unable to disaggregate those costs.

Staff costs

Table 9.21 shows the total reported IPS staffing across Australian Government agencies in 2011–12.

Table 9.21 Total IPS staffing for 2011–12
Staffing2011–12
Staff numbers: 75–100% time on IPS matters 21
Staff numbers: less than 75% time on IPS matters 691
Total staff hours 54,101
Total staff years 27.1

Table 9.22 details the estimated staff costs of IPS for 2011–12.

Table 9.22 Estimated staff costs of IPS for 2011–12
Type of staffStaff yearsSalary costsRelated costs (60%)Total staff costs
Officers whose duties included IPS work 13 $887,273 $532,364 $1,419,636
Other officers involved in IPS work:        
SES 1 $197,457 $118,474 $314,931
APS Level 6 and
Executive Levels 1–2
10 $992,687 $595,612 $1,588,299
APS Levels 1–5 3 $159,369 $95,622 $254,991
Ministerial staff:        
Minister and advisers 0 $0 $0 $0
Minister’s support staff 0 $0 $0 $0
Total 27 $2,236,786 $1,342,071 $3,577,857

Non-labour costs

Table 9.23 details the identified non-labour costs of the IPS.

Table 9.23 Identified non-labour costs of IPS
Item2011–12
General administrative costs $17,808
General legal advice costs $24,603
Litigation costs $0
Training $6068
Other $170,516
Total $218,995

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OAIC expenditure on FOI functions

The OAIC has three key functions: information policy, privacy and FOI functions. Although some staff of the OAIC work in only one of these three areas, many work across two or all three functions. It is difficult to precisely identify the proportion of the OAIC’s activities, and its resources, that are directed towards each function.

The OAIC estimates that 35% of its resources are directed towards exercising its FOI functions. The OAIC’s total expenditure for the reporting period was $13.153m see Appendix 1). Accordingly, the OAIC estimates that it spent approximately $4.604m on the exercise of its FOI functions in 2011–12.

The OAIC spent $11,807 on processing FOI requests made to the OAIC in 2011–12.

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Footnotes

[6] Australian Government ministers and agencies, and the Norfolk Island administration, are required by s 93 of the FOI Act and reg 5 of the Freedom of Information (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 1982 to submit statistical returns to the OAIC every quarter.

[7] All of the 165 FOI requests received by PMC in 2011–12 were for non-personal information.

[8] From 1 November 2010, the FOI Act and the Freedom of Information (Fees and Charges) Regulations (now called the Freedom of Information (Charges) Regulations 1982) were amended to abolish fees and some charges.

[9] Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 s 27.

[10] Kline and Official Secretary to the Governor-General [2012] AATA 247, affirming the decision of the Freedom of Information Commissioner in ‘B’ and Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General [2011] AICmr 6.

[11] Before 2006–07, salary costs were calculated using the average of the salary levels of the three agencies recording the highest total FOI costs. Since 2006–07, salary costs have been calculated using median APS base salary figures and have taken account of SES salary costs. This means the data before 2006–07 is not strictly comparable with the data collected after 2006–07.

[12] As salary levels differ between agencies, median salary levels were used. These are given by the Australian Public Service Commission in its 2011 APS Remuneration Report (2012). These median levels are as at 31 December 2011.

[13] APS Level 5 base salary median.

[14] SES Band 1 base salary median.

[15] Executive Level 1 base salary median.

[16] APS Level 3 base salary median.

[17] Executive Level 2 base salary median.

[18] APS Level 3 base salary median.

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Long text descriptions

Chart 9.1: FOI requests received per annum

Chart 9.1 is a bar graph that illustrates the total number of FOI requests for each year since the commencement of the FOI Act in 1982.

Number of FOI requests received by year
YearNumber of FOI requests
1982 to 1983 5569
1983 to 1984 19,227
1984 to 1985 32,956
1985 to 1986 36,512
1986 to 1987 29,880
1987 to 1988 27,429
1988 to 1989 24,679
1989 to 1990 23,453
1990 to 1991 24,929
1991 to 1992 28,247
1992 to 1993 33,804
1993 to 1994 36,547
1994 to 1995 37,367
1995 to 1996 39,327
1996 to 1997 30,788
1997 to 1998 32,590
1998 to 1999 33,481
1999 to 2000 31,784
2000 to 2001 35,439
2001 to 2002 37,169
2002 to 2003 41,481
2003 to 2004 42,627
2004 to 2005 39,265
2005 to 2006 41,430
2006 to 2007 38,787
2007 to 2008 29,019
2008 to 2009 27,561
2009 to 2010 21,587
2010 to 2011 23,605
2011 to 2012 24,763

Back to Chart 9.1

Chart 9.3: FOI applications lodged with the AAT since 1983–84

Chart 9.3 is a bar graph that shows the number of FOI applications received by the AAT since 1983–84.

Number of FOI requests received by year
YearNumber of FOI applications received by the AAT
1983–84 200
1984–85 310
1985–86 267
1986–87 171
1987–88 80
1988–89 101
1989–90 73
1990–91 68
1991–92 74
1992–93 78
1993–94 129
1994–95 113
1995–96 118
1996–97 117
1997–98 122
1998–99 140
1999–2000 109
2000–01 150
2001–02 99
2002–03 118
2003–04 158
2004–05 142
2005–06 141
2006–07 120
2007–08 142
2008–09 139
2009–10 110
2010–11 82
2011–12 20

Back to Chart 9.3

Chart 9.4: FOI costs in relation to request numbers

Chart 9.4 is a combination bar graph and line graph that shows the relation of total costs to FOI requests received for each year since 1982–83.

Number of FOI requests received by year
YearNumber of requestsCost
1982–83 5576 $7,502,355
1983–84 19,227 $15,106,511
1984–85 32,956 $16,496,961
1985–86 36,512 $15,711,889
1986–87 29,880 $13,336,864
1987–88 27,429 $11,506,931
1988–89 24,679 $10,494,376
1989–90 23,543 $10,373,321
1990–91 24,929 $9,921,772
1991–92 28,247 $12,723,097
1992–93 33,804 $12,702,329
1993–94 36,547 $13,977,360
1994–95 37,367 $11,955,482
1995–96 39,327 $14,564,562
1996–97 30,788 $15,972,950
1997–98 32,590 $12,191,478
1998–99 33,484 $13,066,029
1999–2000 31,784 $14,035,394
2000–01 35,439 $14,415,406
2001–02 37,169 $17,387,088
2002–03 41,481 $18,398,181
2003–04 42,627 $20,189,136
2004–05 39,265 $22,860,022
2005–06 41,430 $24,903,771
2006–07 38,787 $24,936,178
2007–08 29,019 $29,474,653
2008–09 27,561 $30,358,484
2009–10 21,587 $27,484,129
2010–11 23,605 $36,318,030
2011–12 24,764 $41,718,803

Back to Chart 9.4

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