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What information may not be available to me under the Freedom of Information Act?

You have a right of access under the FOI Act to a document held by government unless:

  • the document is held by or originated with an agency that is exempt
  • the document is exempt or is conditionally exempt and it would be contrary to the public interest to release it
  • another legislative scheme gives a right of access to the document, subject to a fee or charge (such as a land title register), or an agency arrangement allows the public to purchase the document.

For more information, see FOI fact sheet 3: What information does the government hold? and FOI fact sheet 8: Exemptions.

If you would like to apply for older government records that are available under the Archives Act 1983, you need to apply to the National Archives of Australia (NAA). For more information, including when records become available under the Archives Act, visit the NAA website.

What is exempt information?

Some information held by government is exempt from disclosure. Exemptions apply to documents or parts of documents:

  • affecting national security, defence or international relations
  • that are Cabinet documents
  • affecting enforcement of law and protection of public safety
  • to which secrecy provisions of enactments apply
  • subject to legal professional privilege
  • containing material obtained in confidence
  • disclosure of which would be contempt of Parliament or contempt of court
  • disclosing trade secrets or commercially valuable information
  • including electoral rolls and related documents.

For full details see FOI fact sheet 8: Exemptions.

What are conditionally exempt documents?

Conditionally exempt documents are documents that are exempt from release if disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. Conditional exemptions apply to documents or parts of documents relating to:

  • Commonwealth-State relations
  • deliberative processes relating to agencies' or ministers' functions
  • the Commonwealth's financial or property interests
  • certain operations of agencies, such as audits and examinations
  • personal privacy
  • business
  • research (by CSIRO or the Australian National University)
  • the economy.

For full details on conditional exemptions and the public interest test see FOI fact sheet 8: Exemptions.