Australian Government Information Access Survey 2019

Date: July 2019

Download the Australian Government Information Access Survey 2019

Prepared for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner by Woolcott Research & Engagement

Summary

Awareness and importance of the right to access information

  • Three quarters of respondents feel that their right to access information held by the government is ‘very’ (52%) or ‘quite’ (32%) important and the majority (87%) are aware of their right to do so.

  • Awareness of the right to access information was highest for the Australian Government (83%) and lowest for Australian government ministers (36%).

  • Overall, most would access government information via the internet or a government agency website, particularly younger 18-34 year olds.

Incidence of accessing information

  • Over a third of respondents had attempted to access government held information, with younger respondents being more likely to have done so in the last three years.

  • Government agencies (27%) were the most common entity for respondents to have accessed.

  • The majority of those who tried were successful at accessing information.
    • Information that participants wished to access tended to be available online or sent to them straight away, although some of those who were successful needed to make a formal access application.

    • Most of those who were not able to access all they attempted to, were at least able to access a portion of the information they were seeking.

    • Success in accessing information did not vary significantly over state.

    • Participants were most successful at accessing complete procedural documents, and least successful at accessing their personal information.

  • Reasons for not having contacted an agency was mainly a lack of need to, however almost one in ten respondents did not know they could.

  • Most were likely to contact either the agency involved (31%) or the Ombudsman (32%) if they had an issue accessing information.

  • The majority of respondents (84%) are not aware of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Research design

  • Woolcott Research was commissioned by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to measure citizens’ awareness of their right to access government held information and investigate their experiences and outcomes when exercising that right.

  • A mixed mode survey amongst n=1,005 participants aged 18+ years was conducted between 18th June and 30th June 2019. A breakdown of respondents by state/territory is displayed below.

    Table showing survey numbers
    ACT/NSWNTQLDSATASVICWA
    n=335 n=12 n=205 n=74 n=23 n=253 n=103
  • Quotas were set by state, location (metro/regional), gender and age. Data was post-weighted to reflect the latest ABS population figures.
  • Please note that due to rounding, percentages may not always add to 100%.
  • Also note that the actual base sizes have been used in all charts so due to data weighting, where raw scores have been used in the tables they may not add up to the base size.

Information Access

Total awareness of right to access information

The majority of the respondents were aware they had the right to access information held by a range of Australian Government agencies.

The proportion of those aware did not vary by state.

Figure 1

Did you know, you have a right to access information (including any of your personal information) held by the following agencies?

Figure 1 shows a bar chart of the total awareness of right to access information by state. Long description follows.

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=205, SA n=74, TAS n=23*, VIC n=253, WA n=103)

*CAUTION; small base size

Figure 1 — long text description

Awareness of right to access information from a range of Australian Government agencies

Awareness of the right to access information was highest for Australian Government and lowest for Australian Government ministers.

Males were significantly more aware of their ability to access personal information, while older participants were more knowledgeable of their right to access policy and procedural documents, information held by statutory bodies and Ministers.

Figure 2

Did you know, you have a right to access information (including any of your personal information) held by the following agencies?

Figure 2 shows a bar chart showing the Awareness of the right to access information for a range of highest Government agencies. Long description follows.

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005)

Figure 2 — long text description

Importance of having the right to access information

Three quarters of participants felt that their right to access information held by the government is ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important.

Figure 3

How important is it to you that you have a right to access government information?

Figure 3 shows a clustered bar chart showing the importance of having the right to access information. Long description follows.

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=205, SA n=74, TAS n=23*, VIC n=253, WA n=103)

*CAUTION; small base size

Figure 3 — long text description

Presumed source of Government information

The most common source of access to information was felt to be through the internet.

Younger respondents (18-34) were significantly more likely to search for government information via an internet search, a third-party website, social media or news sites, whereas older respondents were more likely to contact their local member/MP or seek information from sources that were not listed, such as friends and family.

Figure 4

If you wanted to access government information, how would you go about searching for it?

Figure 4 is a bar chart showing the presumed source of Government information. Long description follows.

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005)

Figure 4 — long text description

Incidence of attempting to access information

Over one third had attempted to access information held by at least one in the range of Australian Government agencies.

18-34 years olds were more likely to have contacted at least one organisation, while those aged over 55 years were less likely to have attempted to access information.

Figure 5

In the last 3 years have you tried to access information held by Australian Government agencies:

figure 5 is a bar chart depicying the incidence of attempting to access information by state. Long description follows.

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=205, SA n=74, TAS n=23*, VIC n=253, WA n=103)

*CAUTION; small base size

Figure 5 — long text description

Attempts to access information from a range of Australian Government agencies

Around a third had tried to access information held by a the Australian government.

Younger respondents (18-34) were more likely to have contacted the Australian government to access personal information or procedural documents.

Respondents attempting to access information, had tried on average to contact 1.5 agencies

Figure 6

In the last 3 years have you tried to access information held by Australian Government agencies?

figure 6 is a bar chart which showsa attempts to access information from a range of Australian Government agencies. Long description follows.

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005)

Figure 6 — long text description

Success in attempting to access information

Most respondents who tried to access information were successful in doing so at least once.

Younger respondents (aged 18-34) were significantly more successful in accessing information while those aged over 55 were significantly less likely to be successful.

Figure 7

Did you access the information successfully?

Figure 7 shows a bar chart depicting the success in attempting to access information by state. Long description follows.

Base: Respondents who tried to access information from at least one agency (Total n=369, NSW/ACT n=127, NT n=7*, QLD n=68, SA n=21*, TAS n=5*, VIC n=97, WA n=44)

*CAUTION; small base size

Figure 7 — long text description

Success in attempting to access information from a range of Australian Government agencies

Most respondents across the states who tried to access information held by the Australian Government were successful in doing so.

Table 1: Did you access the information successfully? — Australian Government
ResponseTotal # (n=272)NSW/ACT # (n=101*)

NT #(n=2*)

QLD # (n=49)SA # (n=14*)TAS # (n=4*)VIC # (n=65)WA # (n=37)
Yes, it was already available online n=157
(59%)

n=51
(51%)

n=2 n=32
(67%)
n=10 n=4 n=39
(60%)
n=19
(56%)
Yes, they sent it to me straight away n=36
(13%)
n=13
(13%)
- n=6
(13%)
- - n=13
(20%)
n=4
(11%)
Yes, but I had to make a formal access application n=25
(9%)
n=12
(12%)
- n=2
(5%)
n=2 -

n=4
(7%)

n=5
(13%)
No, I only got partially what I wanted n=25
(9%)
n=13
(13%)
- n=4
(8%)
- - n=5
(8%)
n=3
(8%)
No, I did not get it n=15
(6%)
n=7
(7%)
- n=1
(2%)
n=2 - n=2
(2%)
n=4
(11%)
Other n=10
(4%)
n=4
(4%)
- n=3
(6%)
n=1 - n=2
(3%)
-

N.B These are raw scores and not percentages

Base: Respondents who tried to access information from Australian government departments/agencies (Total n=269, NSW/ACT n=101, NT n=2*, QLD n=49, SA n=14*, TAS n=4*, VIC n=65, WA n=37)

*CAUTION; small base size

Success in attempting to access information from Federal statutory bodies

Those who contacted Federal statutory bodies were also largely successful.

Table 2: Did you access the information successfully? — Federal statutory bodies
ResponseTotal # (n=80)NSW/ACT # (n=27*)NT #(n=0*)QLD # (n=11*)SA # (n=4*)TAS # (n=1*)VIC # (n=29*)WA # (n=8*)
Yes, it was already available online n=36
(44%)
n=16 - n=7 - - n=12 n=1
Yes, they sent it to me straight away n=15
(19%)
n=4 - n=1 n=2 - n=8 n=1
Yes, but I had to make a formal access application n=16
(19%)
n=4 - n=1 n=1 n=1

n=6

n=3
No, I only got partially what I wanted n=6
(8%)
n=2 - n=1 n=1 - n=1 n=1
No, I did not get it n=6
(7%)
n=2 - - - - n=3 n=1
Other n=2
(3%)
- - n=2 - - - -

N.B These are raw scores and not percentages

Base: Respondents who tried to access information from Federal statutory bodies (Total n=80, NSW/ACT n=27*, NT n=0*, QLD n=11*, SA n=4*, TAS n=1*, VIC n=29*, WA n=8*

*CAUTION: small base size

Success in attempting to access personal information from the Australian Government

Respondents tended to be successful in accessing personal information from the Australian Government.

Table 3: Did you access the information successfully? — Personal information
ResponseTotal # (n=97)NSW/ACT # (n=31*)NT #(n=3*)QLD # (n=12*)SA # (n=11*)TAS # (n=2*)VIC # (n=28*)WA # (n=9*)
Yes, it was already available online n=36
(37%)
n=11 n=2 n=6 - - n=11 -
Yes, they sent it to me straight away n=18
(18%)
n=3 - n=2 n=2 n=2 n=9 -
Yes, but I had to make a formal access application n=16
(16%)
n=5 n=1 - n=1 -

n=5

n=3
No, I only got partially what I wanted n=13
(13%)
n=8 - n=3 n=1 - n=1 n=2
No, I did not get it n=11
(12%)
n=2 - - - - n=2 n=4
Other n=3
(3%)
n=1 - n=2 - - - -

N.B These are raw scores and not percentages

Base: Respondents who tried to access personal information from the Australian Government (Total n=97, NSW/ACT n=33*, NT n=3*, QLD n=12*, SA n=9*, TAS n=2*, VIC n=27*, WA n=6*)

*CAUTION: small base size

Success in attempting to access policy and procedural documents from the Australian Government

Nearly all those who attempted to access policy and procedural documents were successful.

Table 4: Did you access the information successfully? — policy and procedural documents
ResponseTotal # (n=56)NSW/ACT # (n=19*)NT #(n=3*)QLD # (n=13*)SA # (n=6*)TAS # (n=1*)VIC # (n=11*)WA # (n=2*)
Yes, it was already available online n=38
(68%)
n=12 n=3 n=11 n=5 - n=6 -
Yes, they sent it to me straight away n=3
(6%)
- - - - n=1 n=1 n=1
Yes, but I had to make a formal access application n=10
(18%)
n=2 - n=2 n=1 -

n=3

n=1
No, I only got partially what I wanted n=5
(9%)
n=5 - - - - - -

N.B These are raw scores and not percentages

Base: Respondents who tried to access policy and procedural documents from the Australian Government (Total n=53, NSW/ACT n=18*, NT n=2*, QLD n=10*, SA n=6*, TAS n=1*, VIC n=14*, WA n=3*)

*CAUTION: small base size

Success in attempting to access information from Ministers

The majority of the small number of respondents who attempted to access information from Ministers were successful in doing so.

Table 5: Did you access the information successfully? — information from Ministers
ResponseTotal # (n=34*)NSW/ACT # (n=12*)NT #(n=2*)QLD # (n=4*)SA # (n=1*)TAS # (n=1*)VIC # (n=12*)WA # (n=2*)
Yes, it was already available online n=11 n=3 - n=2 n=1 - n=4 n=1
Yes, they sent it to me straight away n=4) n=1 - n=1 - n=1 n=1 -
Yes, but I had to make a formal access application n=7 n=1 - - - - n=5 n=1
No, I only got partially what I wanted n=5 n=4 - n=1 - - n=1 -
No, I did not get it n=2 n=2 - - - - - -
Other n=5 n=1 n=2 - - - n=1 -

N.B These are raw scores and not percentages

Base: Respondents who tried to access information from Australian Government Ministers (Total n=33*, NSW/ACT n=13*, NT n=2*, QLD n=4*, SA n=1*, TAS n=1*, VIC n=10*, WA n=2*)

*CAUTION: small base size

Reasons for not attempting to access information

The main reason for not attempting to access government information, was a lack of need to.

Around one in ten respondents are unaware of being able to access information, with this more prevalent in Queenslanders and amongst those aged 18-34.

Figure 8

Why haven’t you tried to access government held information?

Figure 8 is a bar chart which shows the Reasons for not attempting to access information. Long description follows.

Base: Respondents who had not attempted to access information (Total n=635)

Figure 8 — long text description

Presumed sources of resolving issues accessing information

Most were likely to contact either the agency involved or the Ombudsman if they had an issue accessing information.

Younger respondents (18-34) were more likely to address another government department or not know what to do.

Over 55 year olds more likely to contact an MP.

Figure 9

If you wanted to complain about an issue you had accessing information or about the process you went through or a decision made by an Australian (Federal) Government agency, who would you be MOST likely to contact?

Figure 9 is a bar chart which shows the presumed sources of resolving issues accessing information. Long description follows.

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005)

Figure 9 — long text description

Awareness of the OAIC

The majority of respondents were not aware of the existence of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Those unaware of OAIC were more likely to have not tried to access information held by any government entity.

Figure 10

Before today, did you know that there is a body called the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner that exists to uphold Australian (Federal) Government freedom of information laws?

figure 10 is a bar chart depicting the awareness of the OAIC as a body that exists to uphold Australian (Federal) Government freedom of information laws. Long description follows.

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=205, SA n=74, TAS n=23*, VIC n=253, WA n=103)

*CAUTION: small base size

Figure 10 — long text description

Demographics

Participant demographics

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=205, SA n=74, TAS n=23*, VIC n=253, WA n=103)

*CAUTION: small base size

Gender
GenderTotal % NSW/ACT % NT % QLD % SA % TAS % VIC % WA %
Male 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50
Female 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50

Q: Are you…?

Age
AgeTotal % NSW/ACT % (n=335)NT % (n=12*)QLD % (n=202)SA % (n=74)TAS % (n=24*)VIC % (n=252)WA % (n=103)
18-24 10 14 - 9 6 9 8 8
25-34 19 14 36 19 19 10 20 26
35-44 15 13 21 16 20 14 16 20
45-54 19 22 16 19 14 18 19 16
55-64 14 15 - 12 13 24 15 10
65-74 14 13 25 16 18 6 12 14
75+ 9 9 2 8 9 20 10 8

Q: Which of the following age brackets do you belong to?

Working status
Working statusTotal % (n=1005)NSW/ACT % (n=335)NT % (n=12*)QLD % (n=202)SA % (n=74)TAS % (n=24*)VIC % (n=252)WA % (n=103)
Working full time 36 38 42 33 33 38 39 28
Working part time 18 19 18 16 20 16 17 21
Student 6 7 - 6 6 12 3 4
Unemployed 8 7 7 6 6 - 8 10
Engaged in home duties 7 5 8 4 4 - 9 12
Retired 25 23 25 31 31 34 23 25

Q: Which of these categories best describes you?

Main language spoken
LanguageTotal % (n=1005)NSW/ACT % (n=335)NT % (n=12*)QLD % (n=202)SA % (n=74)TAS % (n=24*)VIC % (n=252)WA % (n=103)
English 94 94 91 96 95 96 93 96
Other 6 6 9 4 5 4 7 4

Q: What is the main language spoken at home?

Long descriptions

Figure 1 — Total awareness of right to access information

Q4/Q5: Did you know, you have a right to access information (including any of your personal information) held by the following agencies?

Percentage of 'yes' responses:

  • Total: 87%
  • NSW/ACT: 85%
  • NT*: 84%
  • QLD: 87%
  • SA: 87%
  • TAS*: 87%
  • VIC: 88%
  • WA: 87%

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=202, SA n=74, TAS n=24*, VIC n=252, WA n=102)

*CAUTION; small base size

Back to Figure 1

Figure 2 — Awareness of right to access information from a range of Australian Government agencies

Q4/Q5: Did you know, you have a right to access information (including any of your personal information) held by the following agencies?

Percentage of 'yes' responses:

  • Australian (Federal) government departments/agencies (e.g. Centrelink, Home Affairs): 83%
  • Federal statutory bodies such as ACCC and ASIC: 60%
  • Australian (Federal) Government – your personal information: 41%
  • Australian (Federal) Government – policy and procedural documents: 41%
  • Australian (Federal) Government Ministers: 36%

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005)

Back to Figure 2

Figure 3 — Importance of having the right to access information

Q5/Q6: How important is it to you that you have a right to access government information?

Importance of having the right to access information — percentage of respondents who said 'Yes' by state
ResponseTotalNSW/ACTNT*QLDSATAS*VICWA
Very important 53 54 43 44 49 53 56 51
Quite important 32 38 45 39 30 28 33 28
Not all that important 12 12 9 13 20 16 10 14
Not important at all 4 5 2 4 1 3 2 6

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=205, SA n=74, TAS n=23*, VIC n=253, WA n=103)

*CAUTION; small base size

Back to Figure 3

Figure 4 — Presumed source of Government information

Q5/Q6: If you wanted to access government information, how would you go about searching for it?

  • Internet/Google: 57%
  • Government agency website: 45%
  • Freedom of information application: 13%
  • Third-party access to information website: 8%
  • Social media: 5%
  • Local member/ MP: 4%
  • News site: 4%
  • Other: 16%
  • Don't know: 11%

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005)

Back to Figure 4

Figure 5 — Incidence of attempting to access information

Q7/Q8: In the last 3 years have you tried to access information held by held by the Australian government?

Percentage who responded 'yes':

  • Total: 37%
  • NSW/ACT: 38%
  • NT*: 55%
  • QLD: 34%
  • SA: 29%
  • TAS*: 22%
  • VIC: 38%
  • WA: 43%

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=205, SA n=74, TAS n=23*, VIC n=253, WA n=103)

*CAUTION; small base size

Back to Figure 5

Figure 6 — Attempts to access information from a range of Australian Government agencies

Q7/Q8: In the last 3 years have you tried to access information held by held by the Australian government.

  • Australian (Federal) government departments/agencies (e.g. Centrelink, Home Affairs): 27%
  • Federal statutory bodies such as ACCC and ASIC: 8%
  • Australian (Federal) Government — your personal information: 10%
  • Australian (Federal) Government — policy and procedural documents: 6%
  • Australian (Federal) Government Ministers: 3%
  • Did not attempt to access information: 63%

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005)

Back to Figure 6

Figure 7 — Success in attempting to access information

Q8/Q9: Did you access the information successfully?

Percentage of 'yes' responses:

  • Total: 83%
  • NSW/ACT: 80%
  • NT*: 95%
  • QLD: 87%
  • SA*: 87%
  • TAS: 100%
  • VIC: 88%
  • WA: 73%

Base: Respondents who tried to access information from at least one agency (Total n=369, NSW/ACT n=127, NT n=7*, QLD n=68, SA n=21*, TAS n=5, VIC n=97, WA n=44)

*CAUTION; small base size

Back to Figure 7

Figure 8 — Reasons for not attempting to access information

Q10/Q9: Why haven’t you tried to access government held information?

  • No need to: 86%
  • Didn't know they could: 7%
  • Didn't know how to: 5%
  • Heard process is difficult: 3%
  • Unlikely to be successful: 0%
  • Other: 0%

Base: Respondents who had not attempted to access information (Total n=635)

Back to Figure 8

Figure 9 — Presumed sources of resolving issues accessing information

Q10/Q11: If you wanted to complain about an issue you had accessing information or about the process you went through or a decision made by an Australian (Federal) Government agency, who would you be MOST likely to contact?

  • The agency involved: 31%
  • Ombudsman: 23%
  • An MP: 12%
  • Search internet/do some research: 11%
  • The [Freedom of] Information Commissioner: 6%
  • Another government department: 2%
  • Other: 2%
  • Don't know: 14%

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005)

Back to Figure 9

Figure 10 — Awareness of the OAIC

Q11/Q12: Before today, did you know that there is a body called the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner that exists to uphold Australian (Federal) Government freedom of information laws?

Awareness of the OAIC — by state
ResponseTotalNSW/ACTNT*QLDSATAS*VICWA
Yes 16 15 31 15 11 25 20 10
No 84 85 69 85 89 75 80 90

Base: All respondents (Total n=1005, NSW/ACT n=335, NT n=12*, QLD n=205, SA n=74, TAS n=23*, VIC n=253, WA n=103)

*CAUTION: small base size

Back to Figure 10

Was this page helpful?

Thank you.

If you would like to provide more feedback, please email us at websitefeedback@oaic.gov.au