Part 5 — Appendices

Publication date: 2018

Appendix A: Agency resource statement and resources for outcomes

Table A.1 — Office of the Australian Information Commissioner resource statement 2017–18[*]
  

Actual available appropriation for 2017–18
$’000

Payments made
2017–18
$’000

Balance remaining for 2017–18
$’000

    (a) (b) (a) - (b)
Ordinary Annual Services[1]        
Departmental appropriation   14,794 9,880 4,914
Total   14,794 9,880 4,914
Administered expenses    
Total ordinary annual services A 14,794 9,880  
Other services        
Administered expenses    
Departmental non-operating    
Administered non-operating    
Total    
Total other services B  
Total available annual appropriations and payments        
Special appropriations    
Special appropriations limited by criteria/entitlement    
Total special appropriations C  
Special Accounts    
Total Special Account D N/A N/A  
Total resourcing and payments
A + B + C + D
  14,794 9,880  
Less appropriations drawn from annual or special appropriations above and credited to special accounts   N/A N/A  
And/or payments to corporate entities through annual appropriations   N/A N/A  
Total net resourcing and payments for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner   14,794 9,880  

[1] Appropriation Act (No.1) 2017–18 and Appropriation Act (No.3) 2017–18. Includes prior year departmental appropriation and section 74 Retained Revenue Receipts.

[*] All figures are GST exclusive.

 

Table A.2 — Office of the Australian Information Commissioner resource statement 2017–18
 

Budget
2016–17
$’000

Actual expenses
2016–17
$’000

Variation
2016–17
$’000

  (a) (b) (a) - (b)
Outcome 1

Provision of public access to Commonwealth Government information, protection of individuals’ personal information, and performance of information commissioner, freedom of information and privacy functions

Program 1.1

Complaint handling, compliance and monitoring, and education and promotion

Administered expenses

Departmental expenses

     

Departmental appriopriation[1]

14,607

13,752

855

Special appropriations

Special Accounts

Expenses not requiring appropriation in the Budget year

517

530

(13)

Total for Program 1.1 15,124 14,282 842
Outcome 1 Totals by appropriation type

Administered Expenses

Departmental expenses

     

Departmental appropriation[1]

14,607

13,752

855

Special appropriations

Special Accounts

Expenses not requiring appropriation in the Budget year

517

530

(13)

Total expenses for Outcome 1 15,124 14,282 842
 2017-182017-18 
Average Staffing Level (number) 75 75

[1] Departmental Appropriation combines Ordinary annual services (Appropriation Act Nos. 1 and 3) and Retained Revenue Receipts under section 74 of the PGPA Act 2013.

Appendix B: Memoranda of understanding

Australian Bureau of Statistics

This year we continued to provide tailored privacy advice under an MOU with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

For this service, we received $175,000.00 (GST exclusive) from the ABS.

Australian Digital Health Agency

This year we entered into an MOU with the Australian Digital Health Agency to provide support and assistance on privacy matters relating to both the Healthcare Identifiers Service (HI Service) and My Health Record system.

For the HI Service, these services included:

  • Responding to privacy enquiries
  • Conducting a privacy assessment
  • Providing guidance material
  • Monitoring and participating in digital health developments

For the My Health Record system, these services included:

  • Responding to enquiries and complaints relating to the privacy aspects of the My Health Record system
  • Investigating acts and practices that may have been a contravention of the My Health Record system
  • Receiving data breach notifications and provided advice
  • Conducting privacy assessments
  • Providing guidance material for individuals and participants in the My Health Record system
  • Liaising and coordinating on privacy related matters and activities with key stakeholders
  • Preparing relevant communication and media materials
  • Providing policy and legislation advice
  • Monitoring and participating in digital health developments

For the 2017–18 financial year, the value of the MOU was $2,076,649.94 (GST exclusive).

For further information on our activities under this MOU, refer to the Annual Report of the Australian Information Commissioner’s Activities in Relation to Digital Health 2017–18 (available on the OAIC website no later than 28 November 2018).

Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) continued to provide a number of corporate services to our office this year. The corporate services included financial, administrative, information technology and human resource related tasks. As a part of this, we also sub-let premises in Sydney from the AHRC.

For the corporate services we paid $932,206 (GST exclusive), and for the premises (including outgoings) we paid $1,071,711 (GST exclusive) to the AHRC.

ACT Government

As a part of our MOU with the ACT Government we continued to provide privacy services to ACT public sector agencies. These services included:

  • Handling privacy complaints and enquiries about ACT public sector agencies in relation to the Information Privacy Act 2014 and its Territory Privacy Principles (TPPs)
  • Providing policy and legislation advice
  • Providing advice on data breach notifications, where applicable
  • Carrying out a privacy assessment
  • Providing access to the OAIC’s Privacy Professional Network meetings

For these services, we received $175,145.78 (GST exclusive) from the ACT Government.

For further information on our activities under this MOU, refer to the Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Capital Territory for the Provision of Privacy Services 2017–18 Annual Report (available on the OAIC website no later than 1 November 2018).

Department of Education and Training

We continued to support the Department of Education and Training with their Student Identifier initiative, providing expert and timely advice on privacy matters. Our services to the department this year included:

  • Developing the content for four editions of the TRANSPARENT privacy newsletter for publication on the Unique Student Identifier website
  • Responding to enquiries and complaints relating to the privacy aspects of the Student Identifier initiative
  • Conducting an online assessment of five Registered Training Organisations against APPs 1 and 5

For these services, we received $164,000.00 (GST exclusive).

Department of Home Affairs

Under our MOU with the Department of Home Affairs we conducted a Passenger Name Record (PNR) data related assessment which considered the use, disclosure and security of personal information in accordance with APPs 6 and 11. The assessment focused on the handling of PNR data in Home Affairs’ Connected Information Environment.

For these services, we received $65,000.00 (including GST).

Note: The agreement between Australia and the European Union (EU) on the processing and transfer of Passenger Name Record data states that ‘The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has arrangements in place under the Privacy Act for the Information Commissioner to undertake regular formal audits of all aspects of Australian Customs and Border Protection Service’s EU-sourced PNR data use, handling and access policies and procedures’.

Department of Human Services

As a part of our ongoing work with the Department of Human Services (DHS), we provided them with general privacy services and support. In our work we:

  • Provided policy advice to DHS on data-matching and other privacy enquiries
  • Provided policy advice on the operation of the APPs with respect to various DHS activities and proposals

For these services, we received $220,000.00 (GST exclusive) from the Department of Human Services.

Appendix C: Privacy statistics

Table C.1 — Issues in privacy complaints: APPs
Issues[*]Number of Complaints%
Use or disclosure 819 27.8
Security of personal information 591 20.1
Access to personal information 497 16.9
Collection 331 11.2
Quality of personal information 276 9.4
Direct marketing 138 4.7
Notification of collection 91 3.1
Openness and transparency 28 1.0
Correction 41 1.4
Cross-border disclosure 10 0.3
Anonymity and pseudonymity 7 0.2
Unsolicited personal information 7 0.2
Government identifiers 3 0.1

[*] Each complaint may include more than one issue.

 

Table C.2 — The main remedies agreed in conciliated privacy complaints in 2017–18
Remedy[*]JurisdictionTotal
Privacy Principles[**]Credit reportingSpent ConvictionsMy Health Records
Record amended 164 101 0 0 265
Compensation 174 22 0 0 196
Access provided 181 8 0 0 189
Other or confidential 150 19 2 3 174
Apology 152 5 0 0 157

[*] Each complaint resolved may involve more than one remedy type.

[**] Includes Australian Privacy Principles, National Privacy Principles, Information Privacy Principles and ACT Territory Privacy Principle complaints.

 

Table C.3 — Compensation amounts in closed privacy complaints
Compensation AmountsJurisdictionTotal
Privacy Principles[**]Credit reportingSpent ConvictionsTFN
Up to $1,000 56 2 0 0 58
$1,001 to $5,000 77 13 0 0 90
$5,001 to $10,000 21 7 0 0 28
Over $10,001 20 0 0 0 20

[**] Includes Australian Privacy Principles, National Privacy Principles and Information Privacy Principles complaints.

 

Privacy assessments and digital assessments

Table C.4 — Privacy assessments
Privacy assessment subjectNo. entities assessedYear openedDate closed
1 Department of Home Affairs (previously DIBP) — contractual arrangements 1 2015–16 Aug–17
2 Tax file numbers publishing agencies 7 2016–17 Sept–17
3 iiNet — requests for information by law enforcement agencies — APP 11 1 2016–17 Nov–17
4 ACT Government — Access Canberra 1 2016–17 Dec–17
5 Unique Student Identifier — Registered Training Organisations 5 2017–18 Jan–18
6 Department of Home Affairs (previously DIBP) — third party provider for SmartGate systems 1 2017–18 Apr–18
7 Document Verification Service — gateway service providers 2 2016–17 Mar–18
8 Department of Home Affairs (previously DIBP) — SmartGate APP 12 1 2016–17 May–18
9 Department of Home Affairs (previously DIBP) (third party provider for advance passenger processing) 1 2016–17 Ongoing
10 Loyalty program 2 2016–17 Ongoing
11 Department of Home Affairs (previously DIBP) — passenger name record 1 2016–17 Ongoing
12 Data retention scheme — Telecommunications service provider 1 1 2017–18 Ongoing
13 Data retention scheme — Telecommunications service provider 2 1 2017–18 Ongoing
14 Department of Home Affairs (previously DIBP) — Connected Information Environment 1 2017–18 Ongoing
15 ACT Government — ACT Housing 1 2017–18 Ongoing

 

Table C.5 — Digital health assessments
Privacy assessment subjectNo. entities assessedYear openedDate closed
Department of Human Services as a contractor of the My Health Record System Operator 1 2016–17 Nov–17
Handling of Individual Health Identifiers by a private healthcare operator 1 2017–18 Ongoing
Australian Digital Health Agency — handling of personal information 1 2017–18 Ongoing

 

Table C.6 — Enhanced Welfare Payment Integrity (data matching) assessments
Privacy assessment subjectNo. entities assessedYear openedDate closed
Department of Human Services non-employment income data matching (NEIDM) program 1 2017–18 Ongoing
Department of Human Services Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) data matching program 1 2017–18 Ongoing
Department of Human Services information security for the NEIDM and PAYG programs 1 2017–18 Ongoing

Appendix D: FOI statistics

This section contains information regarding:

  • Requests for access to documents
  • Applications for amendment of personal records
  • Charges
  • Disclosure log
  • Review of FOI decisions
  • Complaints about agency FOI actions
  • Impact of FOI on agency resources
  • Impact of Information Publication Scheme on agency resources

This appendix has been prepared using data collected from Australian Government agencies and ministers subject to the FOI Act, and separately from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and from the OAIC’s own records. Australian Government agencies and ministers 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
  • The number and outcome of requests to them to amend personal records
  • Charges collected by them[1]

The data given by ministers and agencies for the preparation of this appendix is published on data.gov.au.[2]

Requests for access to documents

Types of FOI requests

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

A request for personal information means a request for documents that contain information about a person who can be identified (usually the applicant, although not necessarily). A request for ‘other’ information means a request for all other documents, such as documents concerning policy development and government decision making.

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

Table D.1 provides a comparison of the number of FOI requests received in each of the past five reporting years including the percentage increase/decrease from the previous year.

Table D.1 — FOI requests received 2013–14 to 2017–18
2013–142014–152015–162016–172017–18
28,463 35,550 37,996 39,519 34,438
14.11% 24.90% 6.88% 4.01% –12.86%

FOI request numbers declined by 12.86% in 2017–18; the first year to record a decrease in the total number of FOI requests since 2009–10 (the financial year immediately prior to the 2010 FOI Act reforms).

In 2017–18, 28,199 (or 81.88% of all FOI requests) were for documents containing personal information. This is the same proportion as in 2016–17 (81.94%), but a decrease when compared with 2015–16 (86.55%).

Similarly, in 2017–18, 6,239 (or 18.12% of all FOI requests) were for ‘other’ information. This is the same proportion as in 2016–17 (18.06%), but an increase in the proportion when compared with 2015–16 (13.45%).

The decline in total FOI requests in 2017–18 was principally driven by the significant decreases in the number of FOI requests for personal information received by the Department of Home Affairs[3] (4,145 fewer) and the Department of Human Services (1,156 fewer) and FOI requests for other information received by the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility (1,355 fewer).

The general decrease in requests for personal information can be largely attributed to an increased emphasis by agencies on providing access to personal information administratively, outside the FOI Act. The Department of Home Affairs attributes their 23.42% decline in the number of FOI requests for personal information in 2017–18 to the introduction in 2016–17 of an administrative access scheme for certain personal information requests, coming after several years of very large increases in FOI requests for personal information by visa applicants.

The Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility was created on 1 July 2016. In 2016–17, as the result of a public campaign which encouraged members of the public to make FOI requests to the facility, it received 1,367 FOI requests, most of which were made within a two week period in May 2017. In 2017–18, the facility only received 12 FOI requests.

Despite the overall decrease in FOI requests in 2017–18, some agencies reported receiving significantly more FOI requests than in previous years. As a result the National Disability Insurance Agency, Comcare and IP Australia entered the ‘top 20’ agency FOI requests list this year.

Number of FOI requests received by agency/minister

In 2017–18, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs together continued to receive the majority of FOI requests (68.75% of the total). Nearly all of those requests (96%) are from individuals seeking access to personal information.

The 20 agencies that received the largest number of requests in 2017–18 are shown in Table 9.2, with a comparison to the number of requests each received in 2016–17.

As noted above, the Department of Home Affairs received significantly fewer FOI requests in 2017–18, and its proportion of the total number of requests received by all Australian Government agencies declined from 46.10% in 2016–17 to 41.17% in 2017–18. This included a 23.42% decrease in requests for personal information (from 17,702 in 2016–17 to 13,557 in 2017–18). However the Department of Home Affairs experienced a 16.77% increase in ‘other’ (non-personal) requests.

The Department of Human Services received 1,219 fewer requests in 2017–18 (down 16.35% from 2016–17). However, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs received more – 3,261 requests, 5.36% more than in 2016–17. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal experienced a 6.78% decrease in requests. The Australian Taxation Office received 1,254 requests, which was 12.57% more than in 2016–17.

As noted above, the total number of requests received by Australian Government agencies decreased by 12.86% in 2017–18. However among the 20 agencies that received the most FOI requests (90.47% of all FOI requests in total), 16 agencies recorded increases in the number of requests received. In particular, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and the National Disability Insurance Agency experienced very significant increases (150.60% and 284.71% respectively). Other agencies to experience significant increases in request numbers include Comcare (68.89%), the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (39.39%), the Immigration Assessment Authority (33.33%), the Department of Defence (28.39%), the Department of Jobs and Small Business[4] (26.59%), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (21.62%) and IP Australia (18.75%).

Because of substantial increases in request numbers, some agencies reported engaging contracted service providers to assist with FOI request processing to meet demand.

Three agencies that appeared in last year’s top 20 agencies experienced decreases in the numbers of FOI requests in 2017–18 and no longer appear in the top 20: the Department of Treasury (a 32.14% decrease), the Department of Social Services (29.94% fewer requests) and the Department of Finance (a 7.55% reduction).

Table D.2 — Agencies by numbers of FOI requests received
Agency2016–172017–18Change in Total
RankPersonalOtherTotal% of all FOI requestsRankPersonalOtherTotal% of all FOI requests
Department of Home Affairs[#] 1 17,702 516 18,218 46.10 1 13,557 620 14,177 41.17 –4,041
Department of Human Services 2 7,164 293 7,457 18.87 2 6,008 230 6,238 18.11 –1,219
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 3 3,067 28 3,095 7.83 3 3,199 62 3,261 9.47 166
Administrative Appeals Tribunal 4 1,547 17 1,564 3.96 4 1,445 13 1,458 4.23 –106
Australian Taxation Office 6 599 515 1,114 2.82 5 1,445 13 1,254 3.64 140
Australian Federal Police 7 438 201 639 1.62 6 473 209 682 1.98 43
Immigration Assessment Authority 8 402 0 402 1.02 7 536 0 536 1.56 134
Department of Defence 9 151 233 384 0.97 8 185 308 493 1.43 109
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) 19 119 47 166 0.42 9 248 168 416 1.21 250
Department of Health 10 333 337 337 0.85 10 2 374 376 1.09 39
National Disability Insurance Agency[*] 40 45 11 270 57 327 0.95 242
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 14 1 197 198 0.50 12 5 271 276 0.80 78
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 12 76 146 222 0.56 13 97 173 270 0.78 48
Comcare[*] 86 49 14 155 73 228 0.66 93
Department of Jobs and Small Business[#] 16 66 173 173 0.44 15 114 105 219 0.64 46
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 15 69 125 194 0.49 16 77 141 218 0.63 24
Commonwealth Ombudsman 17 158 13 171 0.43 17 165 25 190 0.55 19
Attorney-General’s Department 13 51 164 215 0.54 18 50 135 185 0.54 –30
Department of Education and Training[*] 16 141 19 55 127 182 0.53 25
IP Australia[*][+] 0 144   20 0 171 171 0.50 27
Total top 20 31,736[^] 4,730[^] 36,466[^] 92.27 27,503 3,654 31,157 90.47 –5,309
Remaining agencies 647 2,406 3,053 7.73 696 2,585 3,281 9.53 228
Total 32,383 7,136 39,519 100.0 28,199 6,239 34,438 100.0 –5,081

[*] Denotes an agency not in the top 20 agencies in 2017–18.

[+] In 2017–18, for the purpose of FOI statistical reporting, the OAIC created a new agency on the FOI statistics database, ‘IP Australia’. This new agency incorporates data from the Designs, Patents, Trade Marks and Plant Breeder’s Rights offices which are all within the corporate entity ‘IP Australia’. The data given for 2017–18 therefore reflects data which has been reported separately by each of these entities in previous years.

[#] Denotes an agency whose name and/or functions changed as a result of the Administrative Arrangements Order issued on 20 December 2017. The Department of Home Affairs was formerly the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and the Department of Jobs and Small Business was formerly the Department of Employment.

[^] Shows the total for the top 20 agencies in 2016–17 (i.e., includes figures for three agencies not in the top 20 agency list in 2017–18).

FOI requests finalised

Agencies and ministers commenced 2017–18 with a significant number of on hand FOI requests requiring decision (42.89% more than in 2016–17). However the combination of a reduction in the number of requests received during the year (12.86% less) and an increase in requests withdrawn by applicants (32.39% more) resulted in the number of requests on hand at the end of the year being 47.23% less than at the end of 2016–17.

Reasons for the higher number of requests being withdrawn during the year may include:

  • Increased use of administrative access schemes to provide access to documents outside the FOI Act
  • Documents are already available on agency disclosure logs
  • Information is published on agency IPS entries and in annual reports
  • Applicants accept verbal assurances that no documents exist within the scope of their request and withdraw
  • Requests being sent to the wrong agency in the first instance which are then withdrawn when sent to the correct agency[5]

Although there has been an overall decline in the number of FOI requests transferred from one agency or minister to another in 2017–18 (6.92% less), 50.33% of all transfers were made by two agencies: the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Immigration Assessment Authority. Both bodies review certain administrative decisions of agencies and ministers. Applicants for review of decisions by these two agencies frequently seek to access documents held by the agency or minister that made the reviewable decision. As a result, these requests are transferred to the relevant agency or minister for processing.

It is worth noting that although only 18.12% of all FOI requests are requests for access to non-personal (‘other’) information, this category of request was withdrawn 30.77% more often than personal requests in 2017–18.

Table D.3 — Overview of FOI requests received and finalised compared to last year
FOI request processing2016–172017–18% +/–
On hand at the beginning of the year 5,395 6,279 42.89%
Received during the year 39,519 34,438 –12.86%
Requiring decision[6] 44,914 40,717 –9.34%
Withdrawn 3,844 5,089 32.39%
Transferred 763 641 –15.99%
Decided[7] 34,029 31,674 –6.92%
Finalised[8] 38,636 37,404 –3.19%
On hand at the end of the year 6,278 3,313 –47.23%

The percentage of requests granted in full decreased from 55.47% of all requests in 2016–17, to 49.81% in 2017–18. While the number of requests granted in part remained steady at 34%, the number of requests refused (which includes requests refused because the documents sought do not exist or cannot be found and practical refusals, as well as when exemptions have been applied) increased from 9.95% in 2016–17 to 16.19% this year.

A reason for the significant increase in the number of FOI requests being refused in 2017–18, is accounted for by the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility refusing 1,332 requests under s 24 of the FOI Act (practical refusal). These requests to the agency were received over a two week period in 2016–17, following a public campaign which included a specific online FOI request form. However, it is worth noting that even if the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility had not made those decisions there would still have been an increase in the proportion of decisions refused in 2017–18 (11.99%).

Table D.4 — Outcomes of FOI requests decided compared with last year
DecisionPersonal 2016–17Other 2016–17Total 2016–17%Personal 2017–18Other 2017–18Total 2017–18%
Total 30,119 3,910 34,029 100 25,968 5,706 31,674 100
Granted in full[9] 18,040 837 18,877 55.47 14,889 889 15,778 49.81
Granted in part[10] 10,180 1,587 11,767 34.58 9,037 1,730 10,767 34.00
Refused 1,899 1,486 3,385 9.95 2,042 3,087 5,129 16.19

Table D.5 lists the top 20 agencies by the number of FOI decisions they made. The Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Education and Training are on the list of the top 20 agencies in terms of requests received, but not in the top 20 of decisions made.[11] In contrast, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility feature in the top 20 by decisions made, but not by requests received.

There are differences in the outcome of FOI requests between those agencies processing the largest number of requests in 2017–18. Thirteen of these agencies refused access to documents at levels higher than the average across all Australian Government agencies (16.19%). As a rule, these agencies process proportionally higher numbers of ‘other’ (non-personal) FOI requests. Agencies processing higher proportions of FOI requests for personal information have lower refusal rates (see for example, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal).

Table D.5 — Top 20 agencies by numbers of FOI requests decided
AgencyGranted in full%Granted in part%Refused%Total
Department of Home Affairs 8,464 55.61 5,786 38.02 970 6.37 15,220
Department of Human Services 2,047 46.41 1,746 39.58 618 14.01 4,411
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 2,872 97.13 43 1.45 42 1.42 2,957
Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility 1 0.07 7 0.52 1,332 99.40 1,340
Administrative Appeals Tribunal 774 75.73 216 21.14 32 3.13 1,022
Australian Taxation Office 146 16.06 552 60.73 211 23.21 909
Australian Federal Police 38 6.61 346 60.17 191 33.22 575
Immigration Assessment Authority 347 83.41 63 15.14 6 1.44 416
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) 144 37.31 108 27.98 134 34.72 386
Department of Defence 65 17.71 210 57.22 92 25.07 367
Department of Health 56 21.14 74 31.90 102 43.97 232
National Disability Insurance Agency 68 31.63 121 56.28 26 12.09 215
Comcare 58 29.74 69 35.38 68 34.87 195
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 29 15.51 63 33.69 95 50.80 187
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 34 18.89 58 32.22 88 48.89 180
Commonwealth Ombudsman 35 21.08 91 54.82 40 24.10 166
IP Australia 27 16.36 135 81.82 3 1.82 165
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 16 10.60 76 50.33 59 39.07 151
Department of Jobs and Small Business 58 41.73 51 36.69 30 21.58 139
Civil Aviation Safety Authority 42 31.11 62 45.93 31 22.96 135
Top 20 15,321 52.17 9,877 33.63 4,170 14.20 29,368
Remaining agencies 457 19.82 890 38.6 959 41.59 2,306
Total 15,777 49.81 10,767 33.99 5,129 16.19 31,674

Use of exemptions

Table D.6 shows how Australian Government agencies and ministers claimed exemptions under the FOI Act when processing FOI requests in 2017–18. More than one exemption may be applied in processing an FOI request.

The personal privacy exemption in s 47F of the FOI Act remains the most claimed exemption. It was applied in 42.68% of FOI requests to which an exemption was applied in 2017–18 (less than in 2016–17 when it was claimed in 47.90% of all matters in which an exemption applied). The next most claimed exemptions were s 47E (certain operations of agencies — 19.75%, up from 18.47% in 2016–17), s 37 (documents affecting enforcement of law and protection of public safety — 9.17%, up from 2016–17 when it was 6.60% of all exemptions applied), s 38 (documents to which secrecy provisions of enactments apply — 6.64% slightly up on 2016–17’s 6.16%) and s 47C (deliberative processes — 5.20% compared with 4.78% in 2016–17).

No agency reported applying s 45A (Parliamentary Budget Office documents) or s 47J (The economy) in 2017–18 (s 45A was applied in three requests in 2016–17). Less reliance was placed on s 45 (material obtained in confidence) in 2017–18 (when it comprised 1.55% of all exemptions applied) than in 2016–17 (2.17%) however s 47B (Commonwealth-State relations) was applied more frequently than in 2016–17 (165 times compared to 122).

Table D.6 — Use of exemptions in FOI decisions

FOI Act reference

Exemption

Personal

Other

Total

% of all exemptions applied

s 33

Documents affecting national security, defence or international relations

545

154

699

4.93

s 34

Cabinet documents

0

68

68

0.48

s 37

Documents affecting enforcement of law and protection of public safety

1,113

186

1,299

9.17

s 38

Documents to which secrecy provisions of enactments apply

752

189

941

6.64

s 42

Documents subject to legal professional privilege

239

123

362

2.56

s 45

Documents containing material obtained in confidence

92

127

219

1.55

s 45A

Parliamentary Budget Office documents

0

0

0

0

s 46

Documents disclosure of which would be contempt of Parliament or contempt of court

14

20

34

0.21

s 47

Documents disclosing trade secrets or commercially valuable information

22

110

132

0.93

s 47A

Electoral rolls and related documents

3

3

6

0.04

s 47B

Commonwealth-State relations

92

73

165

1.16

s 47C

Deliberative processes

401

335

736

5.20

s 47D

Financial or property interests of the Commonwealth

75

21

96

0.68

s 47E

Certain operations of agencies

2,214

583

2,797

19.75

s 47F

Personal privacy

5,114

932

6,045

42.68

s 47G

Business

188

374

562

3.97

s 47H

Research

0

4

4

0.03

s 47J

The economy

0

0

0

0

Use of practical refusal

Section 24AB of the FOI Act sets out that a ‘request consultation process’ 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 the agency intends to refuse the request and providing details of how the FOI applicant can consult the agency. The FOI Act imposes an obligation on the agency to take reasonable steps to help the FOI applicant revise their request so that the practical refusal reason no longer exists.

Table D.7 provides information about how Australian Government agencies and ministers engaged in request consultation processes under s 24AB of the FOI Act in 2017–18 and the outcome of those processes.

Table D.7 — Use of practical refusal
Practical refusal processing stepPersonalOtherTotal%[12]
Notified in writing of intention to refuse request 1,960 2,168 4,128
Request was subsequently refused or withdrawn 1,554 1,924 3,478 84.25
Request was subsequently processed 406 244 650 15.75

Agencies sent 163.28% more notices of an intention to refuse a request in 2017–18 than in 2016–17 (which was a year in which there had been a 15.66% increase over the previous year).

In 2017–18, 84.25% of the FOI requests subject to a notice of intention to refuse were subsequently refused or withdrawn: the proportion was 66% in 2016–17 and 70.3% in 2015–16.

In 2017–18, 20.71% of personal FOI requests for which a notice of an intention to refuse for a practical refusal reason were subsequently processed. This is a decline on 2016–17, when 32.85% of personal FOI requests were subsequently processed. Requests for ‘other’ (non-personal) information were more likely to be refused in 2017–18 following the issuing of a notice of an intention to refuse a request for a practical refusal reason. In 2017–18, only 11.26% of such requests were subsequently processed (in 2016–17, 35.38% were subsequently processed).

However, as noted in previous sections, the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility refused 1,332 FOI requests in 2017–18 under the practical refusal provisions. This large number of refusals increased both the number of notices issued and the number of requests subsequently refused or withdrawn in 2017–18. However if these decisions are disregarded as anomalous, there was still a 78.22% increase in the number of notices issued in 2017–18 by other agencies (2,791) when compared to 2016–17 (1,566).

Further, the proportion of requests subsequently processed following a notice of intention to refuse being issued has decreased to 15.75% in 2017–18 (from 34% in 2016–17). This may indicate that the assistance agencies gives applicants during the request consultation process is not sufficient to enable applicants to refine their request to remove the practical refusal reason, or that applicants are not willing to refine their request so that they can be processed.

If the data relating to the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility is disregarded, most of the increase in practical refusal processing in 2017–18 can be attributed to two agencies: the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Human Services. In the previous reporting period, the Department of Home affairs and the Department of Human Services respectively issued 590 and 255 notices of an intention to refuse a request. Those figures rose to respectively 1,042 and 987 in 2017–18, a 76.61% increase for the Department of Home Affairs and 287.06% for the Department of Human Services. Together they issued almost half (49.19%) of all practical refusal notices issued in 2017–18.

Time taken to respond to FOI requests

Agencies and ministers have 30 days within which to make a decision under the FOI Act. The FOI Act allows for the statutory timeframe to be extended in certain circumstances.[13]

If a decision is not made on an FOI request within the statutory timeframe (including any extension period) 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.

In 2017–18, 84.86% of all FOI requests determined were processed within the applicable statutory time period: 84.53% of all personal information requests and 86.35% of non-personal requests. This represents a significant improvement in response time from 2016–17 (when 57.62% were decided within time).

Table D.8 — FOI request response time compared with last year
Response timePersonal 2016–17Other 2016–17Total%Personal 2017–18Other 2017–18Total%
Total 30,119 3,910 34,029 100.01 25,968 5,706 31,674 100.00
Within applicable statutory time period 16,343 3,264 19,607 57.62 21,952 4,927 26,879 84.86
Up to 30 days over applicable statutory time period 3,475 325 3,800 11.17 1,018 363 1,381 4.36
31–60 days over applicable statutory time period 2,746 83 2,829 8.31 472 172 644 2.03
61–90 days over applicable statutory time period 2,549 46 2,595 7.63 574 96 670 2.12
More than 90 days over applicable statutory time period 5,006 192 5,198 15.28 1,952 148 2,100 6.63

Table D.9 shows those agencies and ministers that in 2017–18 had one or more FOI requests that took more than 90 days beyond the applicable statutory time period to finalise.

While the Department of Home Affairs’ compliance with statutory timeframes was 74.88%, a reduction in the number of requests received and improved procedures has resulted in a significant improvement in the department’s timeliness in 2017–18 compared to 2016–17 when it finalised only 25.22% within the statutory time period.

Five agencies/ministers took longer than 90 days after the applicable statutory period had expired to process more than 10% of their FOI requests; the Department of Home Affairs, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Minister for Justice, and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

A further six agencies/ministers took more than 90 days after expiry of the applicable statutory period to process more than 5% of their FOI requests.

A significant number of the FOI requests finalised more than 90 days after the expiry of the applicable statutory period were requests for access to personal information (1,952 requests, or 92.95% of the total requests finalised more than 90 days after the statutory period had expired). Such lengthy delays in providing access to personal information may have significant impacts on the rights and opportunities of the relevant individuals. The OAIC will work with the relevant agencies and ministers’ offices to improve timeliness in 2018–19.

Table D.9 — Response times greater than 90 days after the expiry of the applicable statutory period 2017–18
AgencyTotal requests decidedRequests decided more than 90 days after statutory period% of agency/minister total
Department of Home Affairs 15,220 1,990 12.48
Australian Federal Police 575 57 9.91
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 180 17 9.44
Department of the Treasury 76 7 8.21
Administrative Appeals Tribunal 1,022 4 0.39
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science 52 4 7.69
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 909 4 0.44
Australian Broadcasting Corporation 38 3 7.89
Prime Minister 8 3 37.5
Department of Human Services 4,411 2 0.06
Minister for Justice 2 1 50
Australian Film, Television and Radio School 4 1 25
Treasurer 8 1 12.5
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission 65 1 1.54

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, when 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 2017–18, 510 amendment applications were received by 14 agencies (none were received by ministers). This is a 53.64% decrease in applications from 2016–17 (when 1,100 applications were received). This decrease is entirely attributable to a significant (56.75%) decrease in the number of amendment applications received by the Department of Home Affairs (1,052 in 2016–17 and 455 in 2017–18).

The Department of Home Affairs advises that the reason for the decrease in applications in 2017–18 is that it has focussed on responding administratively, outside the FOI Act, to applicants seeking to amend their personal records. This includes introducing an online portal to streamline the process for applicants and has resulted in a reduction in the number of amendment applications in 2017–18.

Despite experiencing a large decrease in applications, the Department of Home Affairs still accounted for 89.22% of all amendment applications received during the year (in 2016–17 the Department of Home Affairs accounted for 95.64% of all amendment applications).[14]

543 amendment applications were decided in 2017–18. This is 581 less than in 2016–17 when 1,124 applications were decided (a 51.69% decline). This reflects the decrease in the number of applications received during the reporting period.

Table D.10 compares the decision making for amendment applications with last year. In 2017–18, a decision was made to amend or annotate a person’s personal record in 72.28% of the decided applications, an increase on the proportion granted in 2016–17 (67.97%). As noted above, overall trends in decision making with respect to amendment applications are largely determined by decisions made by the Department of Home Affairs (which granted 75.46% of applications in 2017–18 and 68.78% in 2016–17).

Table D.10 — Decisions on amendment applications
Decision2016–17%2017–18%
Total decided 1,124 100 543 100
Requests granted: amend record 625 55.6 314 57.83
Requests granted: annotate record 136 12.1 70 12.89
Requests granted: amend and annotate record 3 0.3 2 0.37
Requests refused 360 32.0 157 28.91

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 2017–18, 85.82% of all amendment applications were decided within the applicable statutory time period. This is a slight decrease in timeliness from 2016–17 (86.55%). The OAIC will work with the relevant agencies and ministers’ offices to improve timeliness in 2018–19.

Charges

Section 29 of the FOI Act provides that an agency or minister may impose charges in respect of FOI requests, except requests for personal information, and sets out the process by which charges are assessed, notified and adjusted.

Table D.11 shows the amounts collected by the 20 agencies that collected the most in charges under the FOI Act in 2017–18. These top 20 agencies collected 82.55% of all charges collected by Australian Government agencies and ministers.

In 2017–18, agencies notified a total of $383,531 in charges, with respect to 1,029 FOI requests, but collected only $115,863 (30.21% of the total notified). This difference is due to agencies exercising their discretion under s 29 of the FOI Act not to impose the whole charge, or applicants withdrawing their FOI request and not paying the notified charge.

Agencies notified and collected significantly less in charges in 2017–18 than in the previous year. In 2016–17, agencies notified a total of $505,394 in charges with respect to 1,317 requests, and collected $147,043 (29.09% of the total notified). The percentage decrease in the notification and collection amounts for 2017–18 when compared with 2016–17 are 24.11% and 21.21% respectively.

Table D.11 — Top 20 agencies by charges collected
AgencyRequests receivedRequests where charges notifiedTotal charges notifiedTotal charges collected
Department of Health 376 138 $53,925 $16,693
Department of Education and Training 182 60 $13,096 $7,405
Australian Taxation Office 1254 16 $11,212 $6,782
Department of Finance 147 22 $12,869 $5,284
Department of Defence 493 77 $28,985 $4,874
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 270 46 $10,723 $4,861
Civil Aviation Safety Authority 139 35 $6,431 $4,634
IP Australia 171 29 $11,767 $4,520
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science 86 10 $7,179 $4,401
Department of Human Services 6,238 80 $18,282 $4,374
Food Standards Australia New Zealand 4 2 $5,670 $4,162
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 61 35 $17,941 $3,970
Australian Communications and Media Authority 13 4 $3,780 $3,780
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 276 47 $14,060 $3,169
Department of Jobs and Small Business 219 33 $15,419 $3,122
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 218 19 $3,888 $3,077
Australian National University 64 12 $8,492 $2,947
Bureau of Meteorology 25 11 $14,658 $2,673
Department of Communications and the Arts 54 15 $8,840 $2,577
Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities 100 9 $3,268 $2,341
Top 20 10,390 700 $270,485 $95,646
Remaining agencies 24,048 329 $113,046 $20,217
Total 34,438 1029 $383,531 $115,863

Disclosure log

All Australian Government agencies and ministers subject to the FOI Act are required to maintain an FOI disclosure log on a website. The disclosure log lists information that has been released to FOI applicants, subject to some exceptions (such as personal or business information). Information about agency and ministerial compliance with disclosure log requirements has been collected since 2012–13.

A total of 108 agencies and ministers reported information about their disclosure log activity in 2017–18. Collectively, they reported 1,104 new entries on disclosure logs during 2017–18; including documents available for download directly from the agency or minister’s website in relation to 624 requests, documents available from another website in relation to 70 requests, and 410 entries in which the documents are available by another means (usually upon request).

The total number of new entries published on disclosure logs in 2017–18 is 15.24% higher than 2016–17, when 958 entries were added. This increase occurs in the context of a 13% decrease in the number of full or partial access grant decisions made in 2017–18. This reflects a greater understanding by agencies of their obligation to publish documents released in response to FOI requests.

However, since 2015–16 the proportion of documents which members of the public can access directly from agency websites has declined from 66.87% to 56.52%. As explained in the FOI Guidelines, publication of documents directly through the disclosure log, rather than providing a description of the documents and how they can be obtained on request from the agency or minister, is consistent with the FOI Act object of facilitating public access to government information.[15] In 2018–19, the OAIC intends revising Part 14 of the FOI Guidelines (Disclosure Log) to emphasise the benefit to the community, and to agencies, of making documents released in response to FOI requests readily available on agency websites.

In 2017–18, agencies and ministers reported a total of 37,994 unique visits to disclosure logs and 55,257 page views, which represents an 18.42% increase in unique visits but a 7.50% decrease in total page views reported in 2016–17. This appears to indicate that members of the public are increasingly accessing specific documents, rather than browsing disclosure logs to discover content. This may be the result of the increasing use of search engines to find relevant documents.

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 of review. The applicant can seek internal review with the agency or minister or external merits review by the Information Commissioner (IC review). Information Commissioner decisions under section 55K are reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), then AAT decisions may be appealed on a question of law, to the Federal 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, or alternatively has the ability make a complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Third parties who have been consulted in the FOI process also have review rights if an agency or minister decides to release documents contrary to their submissions. Consultation requirements apply for state governments (s 26A), commercial organisations (s 27) and private individuals (s 27A).

Internal review

Although there is no requirement to do so, the Information Commissioner recommends that a person apply for internal review by the agency who made the FOI request before applying for IC review.

In 2017–18, 797 applications were made for internal review of FOI decisions: 12.41% more than in 2016–17 (709). This increase is notable because it occurs in the context of a 12.86% (4,081) decline in overall FOI request numbers in 2017–18.

Of the 797 applications for internal review, 463 (58.09%) were for review of decisions made in response to requests for personal information and 334 (41.91%) were for review of decisions on other (non-personal) requests.

Agencies finalised 733 decisions on internal review in 2017–18: 11.23% more than in 2016–17 (659). Of these, 351 (47.89%) affirmed the original decision, 72 (9.82%) set aside the original decision and granted access in full, 217 (29.60%) granted access in part, nine (1.23%) granted access in another form, 14 (1.91%) resulted in lesser access and applicants withdrew 52 applications (7.09%) without concession by the agency. Agencies reduced the charges levied as a result of internal review in 18 cases (2.46%).

There were 10 applications for internal review of decisions on amendment applications, 60% fewer than in 2016–17 (when there were 25 applications). Agencies made nine internal review decisions on amendment applications: in seven (77.78%) the original decision was affirmed and in two (22.22%) it was set aside. In 2016–17, 70.83% of original decisions were affirmed and 29.17% set aside.

Information Commissioner review

Table D.12 provides a breakdown by agency and minister of IC review applications received in 2017–18, where the agency or minister was the subject of more than one IC review. In total, there were 801 applications for IC review (up 27%).

In general, it is expected that the agencies which receive the most FOI requests will have the most IC review applications lodged against their decisions. In 2017–18, 14 of the agencies most appealed against also appear in the list of top 20 agencies in terms of the number of FOI requests received.

However some agencies which do not receive large numbers of FOI requests are the subject of a comparatively large number of IC review applications given their FOI caseload. In 2017–18, these agencies included the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (eight IC review applications, 23 FOI requests received – 34.78% of all requests), the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (39 requests, 11 IC review applications – 28.21%), the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (41 requests, 10 IC reviews – 24.39%), the Department of Communications and the Arts (54 requests, 10 IC reviews – 18.52%) and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (276 requests, 28 IC reviews – 10.15%). The FOI case load of these agencies is characterised by a large proportion of non-personal requests (four of the listed agencies received only non-personal FOI requests in 2017–18).

Table D.12 — Information Commissioner review – top 20 by review applications received
Agency/ministerFOI requests receivedAccess refusal decisionsAccess grant decisionsTotal IC reviewsPercentage of FOI requests
Department of Home Affairs 14,177 154 0 154 1.09
Department of Human Services 6,238 119 0 119 1.91
Australian Federal Police 682 52 2 54 7.92
Department of Defence 493 36 3 39 7.91
Australian Taxation Office 1,254 28 0 28 2.23
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 276 28 0 28 10.15
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 270 26 0 26 9.63
Department of Health 376 19 0 19 5.05
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 3,261 18 0 18 0.55
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 218 14 3 17 7.80
Attorney-General’s Department 185 17 0 17 9.19
National Disability Insurance Agency 327 15 0 15 4.59
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority 39 11 0 11 28.21
Comcare 228 11 0 11 4.82
Commonwealth Ombudsman 190 10 0 10 5.26
Department of Communications and the Arts 54 10 0 10 18.52
Australian Broadcasting Corporation 41 10 0 10 24.39
Civil Aviation Safety Authority 139 6 2 8 5.76
Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations 23 8 0 8 34.78
Department of the Environment and Energy 123 7 0 7 5.69
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission 77 7 0 7 9.09
Subtotal 28,671 606 10 616 2.15
Remaining agencies/ministers 5,767 180 5 185 3.20
Total 34,438 786 15 801 2.33

There was an 18.45% increase in the number of IC reviews finalised by the OAIC in 2017–18 when compared with 2016–17 (515 in 2016–17 and 610 in 2017–18).

In 2017–18, 487 IC reviews were finalised without a formal decision being made under section 55K of the FOI Act (79.84% of all IC reviews finalised during the year). This is a very similar percentage as in 2016–17 (79.81%).

The number of IC review applications declined under section 54W[16] of the FOI Act decreased as a percentage of the total IC reviews finalised in 2017–18. In 2016–17, 141 applications (or 27.38% of the total applications finalised) were declined under section 54W; in 2017–18, this decreased to 26.89% of the total applications finalised (164 in total).

Of the 164 IC review applications declined under section 54W of the FOI Act in 2017–18, 48.17% were declined under section 54W(a)(i) on the basis that the Information Commissioner was satisfied that the IC review application was frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, lacking in substance, or not made in good faith. Of all applications declined under section 54W, 35.98% were declined under section 54W(a)(ii) (failure to cooperate), 6.10% under section 54W(a)(iii) (lost contact) and 9.76% under section 54W(c) (failure to comply).

In 2017–18, the Information Commissioner[17] made 123 decisions under section 55K of the FOI Act, a 20.59% increase on 2016–17 when 102 formal decisions under section 55K were made. Of the 123 decisions, 68 affirmed the decision under review (55.28%), 45 set aside the reviewable decision (36.59%) and 10 decisions were varied (8.13%). In 2016–17, the Information Commissioner affirmed 61.76% of decisions, set aside 22.55% and varied 15.69%.

Of the 68 decisions affirmed by the Information Commissioner, nine (13%) had been revised by the agency or minister under section 55G of the FOI Act during the IC review, giving greater access to the documents sought. In 18% of the decisions set aside and substituted by the Information Commissioner (eight decisions), the agency had withdrawn certain exemption contentions during the course of the IC review.

The percentage of applications received by the OAIC which were out of jurisdiction or invalid increased from 6.60% of all applications in 2016–17, to 13.28% in 2017–18.

Table D.13 — Information Commissioner review outcomes compared to 2016–17
Information Commissioner decisions2016–172017–18% of 2017–18 total
Section 54N – out of jurisdiction or invalid 34 81 13.28
Section 54R – withdrawn 115 131 21.48
Section 54R – withdrawn/conciliated 93 64 10.49
Section 54W(a) – deemed acceptance of PV/appraisal 0 0 0.0
Section 54W(a)(i) – frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, lacking in substance, or not in good faith 66 79 12.95
Section 54W(a)(ii) – failure to cooperate 56 59 9.67
Section 54W(a)(iii) – lost contact 3 10 1.64
Section 54W(b) – refer AAT 15 16 2.62
Section 54W(c) – failure to comply 1 0 0.0
Section 55F – set aside by agreement 7 15 2.46
Section 55F – varied by agreement 5 27 4.43
Section 55F – affirmed by agreement 2 0 0.0
Section 55G – substituted 16 5 0.82
Section 55K – affirmed by IC 63 68 11.15
Section 55K – set aside by IC 23 45 7.38
Section 55K – varied by IC 16 10 1.64
Total 515 610 100.01[18]

Administrative Appeals Tribunal review

An application can be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for review of the following FOI decisions:

  • A decision of the Information Commissioner on an IC review
  • An IC 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 IC reviewable decision be considered by the AAT

In 2017–18, 30 applications for review of FOI decisions were made to the AAT. This is a 23.08% decrease on the 39 applications made in 2016–17.

Table D.14 provides a breakdown by agency of applications to the AAT in FOI matters in 2017–18. This data has been provided by the AAT.

In 2017–18, three agencies sought review in the AAT of decisions made by the Australian Information Commissioner under s 55K of the FOI Act – the Department of Home Affairs (three applications), the Department of Defence and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (one application each).

Table D.14 — AAT review by agency (respondent)
RespondentApplications
Total 30
Department of Human Services 6
Department of Defence 2
Australian Building and Construction 2
Australian Securities and Investments Commission 2
Civil Aviation Safety Authority 2
Commonwealth Ombudsman 2
Australian Federal Police 1
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority 1
Commissioner of Taxation 1
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 1
Department of Health 1
Department of Home Affairs 1
Department of Social Services 1
Department of Veterans’ Affairs 1
National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority 1
Other (appeals by agencies against IC review decisions) 5

Thirteen applications remain outstanding with the AAT at the end of 2017–18.

Table D.15 shows the outcome of the 33 FOI reviews finalised by the AAT in 2017–18. This data has been provided by the AAT.

Table D.15 — Outcomes of FOI reviews finalised by the AAT in 2017–1819
AAT OutcomesNumber 2016–17% of total 2016–17Number 2017–18% of total 2017–18
Total 34 100 33 99.99[19]
Affirmed by consent 0 1 3.03
Varied/set aside/remitted by consent 4 11.76 5 15.15
Dismissed by consent 1 2.94 2 6.06
Withdrawn by applicant 13 38.24 10 30.30
Decision affirmed 8 23.53 5 15.15
Decision varied/set aside 7 20.59 7 21.21
Dismissed by AAT – frivolous or vexatious/fail to comply with direction 1 2.94 2 6.06
Dismissed – no application fee paid 0 1 3.03

Of the 33 FOI reviews finalised by the AAT, 12 (36.36%) resulted in a published decision in 2017–18.

The AAT affirmed the agency’s decision in five (15.15%) of the 33 AAT reviews, compared with eight (23.53%) in 2016–17.

Of the 33 FOI reviews finalised in 2017–18, 10 were applications made by Australian Government agencies following decisions made by the Information Commissioner under s 55K of the FOI Act. Of these 10 reviews, four applications were set aside (by decision), three applications were withdrawn by the agency and three were set aside by consent.

Federal Court

In 2017–18 the Information Commissioner referred a linked set of two questions of law to the Federal Court under s 55H of the FOI Act. In its application, the Information Commissioner sought to clarify the proper construction of s 55G of the FOI Act during the course of an IC review. On 9 April 2018, the Federal Court (Griffiths J) held that the determination of the referred questions of law did not involve a ‘matter’ within the meaning of Chapter III of the Australian Constitution and therefore dismissed the Information Commissioner’s application (see Australian Information Commissioner v Elstone Pty Limited [2018] FCA 463).

Also during 2017–18 a Full Court considered an appeal against a decision by Tracey J (Giddings v Australian Information Commissioner [2017] FCA 667), which remitted an application for IC review to the Information Commissioner to be heard and determined according to law. The Court dismissed the application on 21 December 2017 (see Giddings v Australian Information Commissioner [2017] FCAFC 225).

Complaints about agency FOI actions

Complaints to the Information Commissioner

Information about the Information Commissioner’s handling of FOI complaints is provided on page 83.

Complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman

Complaints about an agency’s handling of FOI requests are primarily dealt with by the OAIC. The Commonwealth Ombudsman may investigate complaints related to administration of FOI matters 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 2017–18, the Commonwealth Ombudsman received 49 complaints about FOI matters, 15.52% less than the 58 complaints it received in 2016–17. The Commonwealth Ombudsman transferred 30 complaints to the OAIC under s 6C of the Ombudsman Act 1976 during 2017–18.

Impact of FOI on agency resources

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

Agencies are also asked to report their costs of compliance with the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). To facilitate comparison with the information in previous annual reports, 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 processing FOI requests in 2017–18 was $52.19 million, a 16.52% increase on the previous year’s total of $44.79 million. This increase occurred in the context of 12.86% fewer FOI requests being received and a 6.92% decrease in the number of FOI requests determined in 2017–18.

The reason for the increase in overall cost of FOI activity is a 26.99% increase in the average amount of time taken to process each FOI request (from 2.26 days in 2016–17 to 2.87 days 2017–18). More information about staff time spent processing FOI requests is set out below.

Table D.16 sets out the average cost per FOI request determined (granted in full, in part or refused) compared to last year. The average cost per request determined in 2017–18 was $1,648 (up 25.23% from 2016–17).

Table D.16 — Average cost per request determined 2015–16 to 2017–18
YearRequests determinedTotal costAverage cost per request determined
2016–17 34,029 $44,787,154 $1,316
2017–18 31,674 $52,186,179 $1,648

Staff costs

All agencies are asked to supply information about staff resources allocated to FOI.

Table D.17 — Total FOI staffing across all Australian Government agencies compared to last year
Staffing2016–172017–18+/– %
Total staff hours 670,986 744,350 10.93
Total staff years 335.5 372.18 10.93

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 request processing. A summary of staff costs is provided in Table D.18, based on information provided by agencies and ministers and is calculated using the following median base annual salaries from APSC public information:[20]

  • FOI contact officer (officers whose duties included FOI work) $76,561[21]
  • Other officers involved in processing requests:
    • Senior Executive Service (SES) officers (or equivalent) $189,353[22]
    • APS Level 6 and Executive Levels (EL) 1–2 $111,633[23]
    • Australian Public Service (APS) Levels 1–5 $61,970[24]
  • Minister’s office
    • Minister and advisers $138,195[25]
    • Minister’s support staff $61,970[26]
Table D.18 — Estimated staff costs of FOI compared to last year
Type of staffStaff years 2016–17Total staff costs 2016–17Staff years 2017–18Total staff costs 2017–18+/– % Total staff costs
Total 335.49 42,351,963 372.18 49,627,885 17.18
FOI contact officers 258.63 30,808,955 277.32 33,971,341 10.26
SES 9.23 2,727,886 13.53 4,097,902 50.22
APS Level 6 and EL 1–2 26.82 4,669,263 42.38 7,569,521 62.11
APS Levels 1–5 38.45 3,874,513 36.97 3,665,451 –5.40
Minister and advisers 1.10 238,518 1.05 231,062 –3.13
Minister’s support staff 1.25 122,827 0.93 92,608 32.63

Total estimated staff costs in 2017–18 were $49.63 million, 17.18% more than in 2016–17. By contrast, in 2016–17, total estimated staff costs rose by 9.12% over the previous year.

Non-labour costs

Non-labour costs directly attributable to FOI are summarised in Table D.19, including the percentage change from the previous year. The total in 2017–18 was $2.56 million, a 5.06% increase on the previous year.

The largest increase in non-labour costs in 2017–18 is in relation to the ‘other’ category of expenses and is primarily the result of the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Home Affairs both reporting that they contracted service providers to assist with FOI processing during 2017–18 ($153,827 and $140,152 respectively).

There was also a 32.35% increase in costs associated with FOI training in 2017–18. This increase is the result of many agencies needing to engage new staff to process an increasing FOI workload.

Table D.19 — Identified non-labour costs of FOI
Costs2016–172017–18% change
Total 2,435,191 2,558,295 5.06
General legal advice costs 1,268,462 1,234,631 –2.67
Litigation costs 635,240 426,145 –32.92
Total legal costs 1,903,702 1,660,776 –12.76
General administrative costs 237,932 274,532 15.38
Training 244,765 323,958 32.35
Other 48,792 299,029 512.86

Average cost per FOI request

The average staff days per request in 2017–18 differed significantly across agencies from 0.019 (Airservices Australia) to 19.21 days (the Department of Defence). The overall average was 2.88 days. The average was 2.26 days in 2016–17.

The average cost per request also differed significantly across agencies from $12.83 to $18,095.92. The overall average was $1,515.37, a 33.71% increase on the previous year’s average of $1,133.31.

Table D.20 — Agencies with average cost per request greater than $10,000
AgencyRequests receivedAverage cost per request
Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility 12 $18,095.92
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research 3 $12,259.32
Department of Defence 493 $11,756.98

The Department of Defence has a high average cost per request. This is because it has the highest average staff days per request and its overall costs were higher than other agencies because of costs associated with training staff in 2017–18 ($113,766).

As noted earlier, the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility finalised 1,340 FOI requests in 2017–18, but received only 12 requests during the year. No other agency experienced such a large difference in request numbers between 2016–17 and 2017–18. If the facility’s total FOI spend is divided by the number of FOI requests it finalised, the average cost per request in 2017–18 would only be $162.05.

Impact of the Information Publication Scheme on agency resources

Agencies are required to provide information about the costs of meeting their obligations under the IPS, which commenced on 1 May 2011.

The total reported cost attributable to compliance with the IPS in 2017–18 was $964,637, 126.99% more than in 2017–16 ($424,966). This increase may be largely attributable to the OAIC conducting a survey of agencies’ IPS compliance. The final report on IPS compliance is expected to be published in the first half of 2018–19.

Staff costs

Table D.21 shows the total reported IPS staffing across Australian Government agencies compared to last year.

Table D.21 — Total IPS staffing
Staffing2016–172017–18% change
Staff numbers: 75–100% time on IPS matters 9 7 –22.22
Staff numbers: less than 75% time on IPS matters 280 418 49.29
Total staff hours 6705 15,087 125.01
Total staff years 3.35 7.54 125.01

 

Table D.22 — Estimated staff costs in relation to the IPS for 2017–18
Type of staff[27]Staff yearsSalary costsRelated costs (60%)Total staff costs
Total 7.5435 596,444.80 357,866.88 954,311.68
IPS contact officers 6.7655 517,973.45 310,784.06 828,757.51
SES 0.089 16,852.42 10,111.45 26,963.87
APS Level 6 and EL 1–2 0.381 42,532.17 25,519.31 68,051.48
APS Levels 1–5 0.308 19,086.76 11,452.06 30,538.82

Non-labour costs

Reported IPS non-labour costs for all agencies totalled only $10,326 in 2017–18 and this was largely the result of one agency (the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency) engaging an external auditor to audit their IPS.

Appendix E: Acronyms and abbreviations

Acronym or abbreviationExpanded term
AAT Administrative Appeals Tribunal
AHRC Australian Human Rights Commission
AIC Act Australian Information Commission Act 2010
ANAO Australian National Audit Office
APEC Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
APP Australian Privacy Principle
APPA Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities
APS Australian Public Service
ATO Australian Taxation Office
AUSTRAC Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre
CALC Consumer Action Law Centre
CASA Civil Aviation Safety Authority
CCLCSA Consumer Credit Law Centre South Australia
CCR Comprehensive Credit Reporting
CII Commissioner initiated investigation
CIO Credit and Investments Ombudsman
CPN Consumer Privacy Network
DBN Data Breach Notification
DHS Department of Human Services
DIBP Department of Immigration and Border Protection (now known as the Department of Human Services)
DVS Document Verification Service
EDR External dispute resolution
EWOQ Energy + Water Ombudsman Queensland
EWON Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW
EWOSA Energy & Water Ombudsman SA
EWOV Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria
EWOWA Energy and Water Ombudsman Western Australia
FOS Financial Ombudsman Service
FOI Freedom of information
FOI Act Freedom of Information Act 1982
FTE Full-time equivalent
GDPR General Data Protection Regulation
GPEN Global Privacy Enforcement Network
GST Goods and Services Tax
HI Services Healthcare Identifiers Services
IC Information Commissioner
Information Commissioner Australian Information Commissioner, within the meaning of the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010
IPP Information Privacy Principle
IPS Information Publication Scheme
MOU Memorandum of Understanding
MYEFO Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook
My Health Records Act My Health Records Act 2012
NDB Notifiable Data Breaches
NMAS National Mediator Accreditation Standards
NPP National Privacy Principle
OAIC Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
PGPA Act Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013
PPN Privacy Professionals’ Network
Privacy Act Privacy Act 1988
PAW Privacy Awareness Week
PIA Privacy Impact Assessment
PSM Public Service Medal
PTO Public Transport Ombudsman Victoria
SES Senior Executive Service
SI Student Identifier
SME Small and Medium Enterprises
TAP Talking about performance
TCO Tolling Customer Ombudsman
TFN Tax File Number
TIA Act Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979
TIO Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
TPPs Territory Privacy Principles
WHS Workplace Health and Safety

Appendix F: Correction of material errors

Correction of errors in the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner Annual Report 2016–17.

Page 18 — Privacy highlights number received

For 2016–17 the number of privacy complaints received should be 2,495, not 2,494.

Page 21 — FOI highlights number received

For 2016–17 the number of IC reviews received should be 633, not 632.

Page 28 — Under the list of CPN members

The year that CPN members joined should be 2016–17 not 2017–18.

Appendix G: Index

The index is not available in accessible HTML. If you require the index in an alternate format, please send your request to website@oaic.gov.au.

Appendix H

PGPA Rule ReferenceDescriptionRequirementPart of Report
17AD(g) Letter of transmittal
17AI A copy of the letter of transmittal signed and dated by accountable authority on date final text approved, with statement that the report has been prepared in accordance with section 46 of the Act and any enabling legislation that specifies additional requirements in relation to the annual report. Mandatory 1
17AD(h) Aids to access
17AJ(a) Table of contents. Mandatory 2
17AJ(b) Alphabetical index. Mandatory 194
17AJ(c) Glossary of abbreviations and acronyms. Mandatory 190
17AJ(d) List of requirements. Mandatory 195
17AJ(e) Details of contact officer. Mandatory Inside cover
17AJ(f) Entity’s website address. Mandatory Inside cover
17AJ(g) Electronic address of report. Mandatory Inside cover
17AD(a) Review by accountable authority
17AD(a) A review by the accountable authority of the entity. Mandatory 8–11
17AD(b) Overview of the entity
17AE(1)(a)(i) A description of the role and functions of the entity. Mandatory 6
17AE(1)(a)(ii) A description of the organisational structure of the entity. Mandatory 16
17AE(1)(a)(iii) A description of the outcomes and programmes administered by the entity. Mandatory 24–89
17AE(1)(a)(iv) A description of the purposes of the entity as included in corporate plan. Mandatory 7
17AE(1)(b) An outline of the structure of the portfolio of the entity. Portfolio departments mandatory 6, 16, 92
17AE(2) Where the outcomes and programs administered by the entity differ from any Portfolio Budget Statement, Portfolio Additional Estimates Statement or other portfolio estimates statement that was prepared for the entity for the period, include details of variation and reasons for change. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
17AD(c) Report on the Performance of the entity
Annual performance Statements
17AD(c)(i); 16F Annual performance statement in accordance with paragraph 39(1)(b) of the Act and section 16F of the Rule. Mandatory 24–89
17AD(c)(ii) Report on Financial Performance
17AF(1)(a) A discussion and analysis of the entity’s financial performance. Mandatory 102–139
17AF(1)(b) A table summarising the total resources and total payments of the entity. Mandatory 142–144
17AF(2) If there may be significant changes in the financial results during or after the previous or current reporting period, information on those changes, including: the cause of any operating loss of the entity; how the entity has responded to the loss and the actions that have been taken in relation to the loss; and any matter or circumstances that it can reasonably be anticipated will have a significant impact on the entity’s future operation or financial results. If applicable, Mandatory. 102–139,
142–144
17AD(d) Management and Accountability
Corporate Governance
17AG(2)(a) Information on compliance with section 10 (fraud systems) Mandatory 100
17AG(2)(b)(i) A certification by accountable authority that fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans have been prepared. Mandatory 1
17AG(2)(b)(ii) A certification by accountable authority that appropriate mechanisms for preventing, detecting incidents of, investigating or otherwise dealing with, and recording or reporting fraud that meet the specific needs of the entity are in place. Mandatory 1
17AG(2)(b)(iii) A certification by accountable authority that all reasonable measures have been taken to deal appropriately with fraud relating to the entity. Mandatory 1
17AG(2)(c) An outline of structures and processes in place for the entity to implement principles and objectives of corporate governance. Mandatory 92
17AG(2)(d) – (e) A statement of significant issues reported to Minister under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Act that relates to non compliance with Finance law and action taken to remedy non compliance. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
External Scrutiny
17AG(3) Information on the most significant developments in external scrutiny and the entity’s response to the scrutiny. Mandatory N/A
17AG(3)(a) Information on judicial decisions and decisions of administrative tribunals and by the Australian Information Commissioner that may have a significant effect on the operations of the entity. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
17AG(3)(b) Information on any reports on operations of the entity by the Auditor General (other than report under section 43 of the Act), a Parliamentary Committee, or the Commonwealth Ombudsman. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
17AG(3)(c) Information on any capability reviews on the entity that were released during the period. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
Management of Human Resources
17AG(4)(a) An assessment of the entity’s effectiveness in managing and developing employees to achieve entity objectives. Mandatory 95, 97
17AG(4)(b) Statistics on the entity’s APS employees on an ongoing and non ongoing basis; including the following:
  • Statistics on staffing classification level
  • Statistics on full time employees
  • Statistics on part time employees
  • Statistics on gender
  • Statistics on staff location
  • Statistics on employees who identify as Indigenous
Mandatory 95–96
17AG(4)(c) Information on any enterprise agreements, individual flexibility arrangements, Australian workplace agreements, common law contracts and determinations under subsection 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. Mandatory 98
17AG(4)(c)(i) Information on the number of SES and non SES employees covered by agreements etc identified in paragraph 17AG(4)(c). Mandatory 96
17AG(4)(c)(ii) The salary ranges available for APS employees by classification level. Mandatory 96
17AG(4)(c)(iii) A description of non salary benefits provided to employees. Mandatory 97
17AG(4)(d)(i) Information on the number of employees at each classification level who received performance pay. If applicable, Mandatory 98
17AG(4)(d)(ii) Information on aggregate amounts of performance pay at each classification level. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
17AG(4)(d)(iii) Information on the average amount of performance payment, and range of such payments, at each classification level. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
17AG(4)(d)(iv) Information on aggregate amount of performance payments. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
Assets Management
17AG(5) An assessment of effectiveness of assets management where asset management is a significant part of the entity’s activities If applicable, mandatory N/A
Purchasing
17AG(6) An assessment of entity performance against the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. Mandatory 99
Consultants
17AG(7)(a) A summary statement detailing the number of new contracts engaging consultants entered into during the period; the total actual expenditure on all new consultancy contracts entered into during the period (inclusive of GST); the number of ongoing consultancy contracts that were entered into during a previous reporting period; and the total actual expenditure in the reporting year on the ongoing consultancy contracts (inclusive of GST). Mandatory 99
17AG(7)(b) A statement that “During [reporting period], [specified number] new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $[specified million]. In addition, [specified number] ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the period, involving total actual expenditure of $[specified million]”. Mandatory 99
17AG(7)(c) A summary of the policies and procedures for selecting and engaging consultants and the main categories of purposes for which consultants were selected and engaged. Mandatory 99
17AG(7)(d) A statement that “Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website.” Mandatory 99
Australian National Audit Office Access Clauses
17AG(8) If an entity entered into a contract with a value of more than $100 000 (inclusive of GST) and the contract did not provide the Auditor General with access to the contractor’s premises, the report must include the name of the contractor, purpose and value of the contract, and the reason why a clause allowing access was not included in the contract. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
Exempt contracts
17AG(9) If an entity entered into a contract or there is a standing offer with a value greater than $10 000 (inclusive of GST) which has been exempted from being published in AusTender because it would disclose exempt matters under the FOI Act, the annual report must include a statement that the contract or standing offer has been exempted, and the value of the contract or standing offer, to the extent that doing so does not disclose the exempt matters. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
Small business
17AG(10)(a) A statement that “[Name of entity] supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance’s website.” Mandatory 99
17AG(10)(b) An outline of the ways in which the procurement practices of the entity support small and medium enterprises. Mandatory 99
17AG(10)(c) If the entity is considered by the Department administered by the Finance Minister as material in nature—a statement that “[Name of entity] recognises the importance of ensuring that small businesses are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on the Treasury’s website.” If applicable, Mandatory 99
Financial Statements
17AD(e) Inclusion of the annual financial statements in accordance with subsection 43(4) of the Act. Mandatory 102–139
17AD(f) Other Mandatory Information
17AH(1)(a)(i) If the entity conducted advertising campaigns, a statement that “During [reporting period], the [name of entity] conducted the following advertising campaigns: [name of advertising campaigns undertaken]. Further information on those advertising campaigns is available at [address of entity’s website] and in the reports on Australian Government advertising prepared by the Department of Finance. Those reports are available on the Department of Finance’s website.” If applicable, Mandatory 100
17AH(1)(a)(ii) If the entity did not conduct advertising campaigns, a statement to that effect. If applicable, Mandatory N/A
17AH(1)(b) A statement that “Information on grants awarded by [name of entity] during [reporting period] is available at [address of entity’s website].” If applicable, Mandatory 100
17AH(1)(c) Outline of mechanisms of disability reporting, including reference to website for further information. Mandatory 101
17AH(1)(d) Website reference to where the entity’s Information Publication Scheme statement pursuant to Part II of FOI Act can be found. Mandatory 101
17AH(1)(e) Correction of material errors in previous annual report If applicable, mandatory 193
17AH(2) Information required by other legislation Mandatory 148–151,
152–189

Footnotes

[1] Australian Government ministers and agencies, and Norfolk Island authorities, are required by s 93 of the FOI Act and reg 8 of the Freedom of Information (Prescribed Authorities, Principal Offices and Annual Report) Regulations 2017 to submit statistical returns to the OAIC every quarter and provide a separate annual report on FOI and IPS costs.

[2] The data reported in this appendix has been rounded to two decimal places. In the main body of the annual report it has been rounded to a whole number for increased readability.

[3] As a result of an Administrative Arrangements Order dated 20 December 2017, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection changed its name to the Department of Home Affairs. This report refers to the Department of Home Affairs. The reported data includes data reported by the (former) Department of Immigration and Border Protection during the first six months of 2017–18.

[4] The Department of Jobs and Small Business was created as a result of an Administrative Arrangements Order dated 20 December 2017. This department incorporates the former Department of Employment with small business policy and programs, and reducing the burden of government regulation into its responsibilities. This appendix refers to the Department of Jobs and Small Business throughout and includes FOI data reported by the (former) Department of Employment during the first six months of 2017–18.

[5] Although an agency or minister can transfer a wrongly directed FOI request under s 16(1) of the FOI Act, this can only be done with the agreement of the receiving agency. If the applicant makes the request directly to the agency, it must be processed.

[6] Total of requests on hand at the beginning of the year and requests received during the year.

[7] Covers access granted in full, part or refused.

[8] The sum of requests withdrawn, transferred and decided.

[9] The release of all documents within the scope of the request, as interpreted by the agency or minister.

[10] A document is granted in part when a part, or parts, of a document have been redacted to remove exempt or conditionally exempt matter.

[11] The Attorney-General’s Department finalised 57.30% of all the requests it received in 2017–18 (it received 185 FOI requests and finalised 106). The Department of Education and Training finalised 54.96% (182 requests received, 100 finalised).

[12] Percentage of the total number of notices advising of an intention to refuse a request for a practical refusal reason.

[13] 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 (ss 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 (s 15AC or section 51DA) or deemed 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.

[14] The other agencies to receive amendment applications in 2017–18, are the Department of Human Services (14), the Department of Jobs and Small Business (13), the Department of Defence (10), Comcare (5), the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (3), the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (2), the Australian Taxation Office (2), the Australian Federal Police (1), the Australian Financial Security Authority (1), the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (1), the Department of the Environment and Energy (1), the Fair Work Commission (1) and the National Disability Insurance Agency (1).

[15] FOI Guidelines [14.32].

[16] Section 54W of the FOI Act contains a number of grounds under which the Information Commissioner may decide not to undertake an IC review, or not to continue to undertake an IC review.

[17] Includes the then acting Information Commissioner.

[18] This total reflects rounding to two decimal places.

[19] This total reflects rounding to two decimal places.

[20] As salary levels differ between agencies, median salary levels were used. These are given by the Australian Public Service Commission in its APS Remuneration Report 2017. These median levels are as at 31 December 2017.

[21] APS Level 5 base salary median.

[22] SES Band 1 base salary median.

[23] Executive Level 1 base salary median.

[24] APS Level 3 base salary median.

[25] Executive Level 2 base salary median.

[26] APS Level 3 salary median.

[27] IPS contact officers are officers whose usual duties include IPS work. The other rows cover other officers involved in IPS work.