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Guidance for agency websites

Archived Document – This document is no longer in use.The current guidance for agency websites is now located under 'Agency Resources'.

On this page:

  • Introduction to the guidance
  • Guidance for agency websites
  • Broad principles
  • Website home page
  • FOI page
  • IPS page
  • FOI disclosure log page
  • Privacy page

Section 93A of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) provides that the Australian Information Commissioner may issue written guidelines for the purposes of the FOI Act. Agencies must have regard to these guidelines in performing a function or exercising a power under the FOI Act (s 93A(2)). The guidelines are not a legislative instrument (s 93A(3)).

The following guidance is recommendatory only in relation to FOI. It also refers to existing related guidance for agencies under the Privacy Act 1988.

Prof. John McMillan

Australian Information Commissioner

22 March 2011

Guidance for agency websites

This guidance aims to promote access to government information by ensuring that members of the public can easily find information that agencies have published on their websites as well as information on how they can make requests under the FOI Act. This guidance also aims to assist agencies to comply with their obligations under section 15(3) of the FOI Act to take reasonable steps to assist any person who wishes to make an FOI request.

1. Broad principles

Agencies should have regard to the following principles when publishing information on their website in relation to freedom of information (FOI), the Information Publication Scheme (IPS) and privacy.

2. Website home page

An agency’s home page should link to web pages dedicated to:

  • FOI
  • IPS (via the IPS icon)
  • FOI Disclosure log (via the FOI disclosure log icon)
  • privacy.

Icons

The IPS and FOI disclosure log icons can be downloaded from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) website at www.oaic.gov.au and the OAIC community on GovDex at www.govdex.gov.au.

The icons are available for download in a variety of formats suitable for print and online use. The icons are available in alternative formats upon request by emailing enquiries@oaic.gov.au. If agencies need to resize the icons, they should do so proportionally so that the text remains legible.

Guidance to help agencies manage their online presence and understand their legal and policy obligations is available from the Australian Government Information Management Office’s (AGIMO) Web Guide at webguide.gov.au.

3. FOI page

An agency’s FOI page should include a plain English explanation of:

  • the right to seek access to information under the FOI Act
  • documents available from the agency outside the FOI Act (where applicable, such as where an agency has an administrative access scheme for providing personal information like notices of assessment)
  • types of documents that are not available under the FOI Act
  • how to make an FOI request, including
  • the requirements for a valid request and how to obtain assistance
  • the name, telephone number and email address of the FOI contact officer or officers. Consideration should be given to establishing generic telephone numbers and email addresses (for example foi@agency.gov.au) that will not change with staff movements.
  • the need for an applicant to provide an authority for request if someone acts on their behalf
  • an FOI application form (if available)
  • charges, including remission of charges
  • internal and OAIC review options
  • complaints to the OAIC.

The FOI page should link to the FOI disclosure log page and the IPS page. Agencies should consider adopting the following short form address for the FOI page: www.agency.gov.au/foi. The Information Commissioner encourages agencies to adopt the model FOI page set out in this guidance.

4. IPS page

The OAIC provided guidance on the IPS information architecture in the IPS Discussion Paper (December 2010) available through the OAIC community on GovDex. Further guidance will be available before 1 May 2011 in FOI Guidelines — Part 13 The Information Publication Scheme.

The IPS page should link to the FOI page and the FOI disclosure log page. (See guidance above on the use of the IPS icon.) Agencies should consider adopting the following short form address for the IPS page: www.agency.gov.au/ips.

5. FOI disclosure log page

The OAIC has provided guidance in the Disclosure Log Discussion Paper (March 2011) available at www.oaic.gov.au/publications/papers.html. When designing or updating an FOI disclosure log, agencies should use the draft FOI disclosure log template at Annexure A to the discussion paper to provide a consistent appearance across government.

The FOI disclosure log page should link to the FOI page and the IPS page. (See guidance above on the use of the FOI disclosure log icon.) Agencies should consider adopting the following short form address for the FOI disclosure log page: www.agency.gov.au/disclosurelog.

6. Privacy page

The former Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) published guidelines to assist Australian and ACT government agencies to adopt best privacy practice and comply with the Privacy Act 1988 with respect to their websites. Agencies should have regard to the principles set out in the Guidelines for Federal and ACT Government Websites, available at www.privacy.gov.au/materials/types/guidelines/view/6057.

Agencies should consider adopting the following short form address for the privacy page: www.agency.gov.au/privacy.


Model FOI Page

Freedom of information

Your rights

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives any person the right to:

  • access copies of documents (except exempt documents) we hold
  • ask for information we hold about you to be changed or annotated if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading, and
  • seek a review of our decision not to allow you access to a document or not to amend your personal record.

You can ask to see any document that we hold. We can refuse access to some documents, or parts of documents that are exempt. Exempt documents may include those relating to national security, documents containing material obtained in confidence and Cabinet documents, or other matters set out in the FOI Act.

Documents available outside the FOI Act

You can get certain information, including personal information we hold about you, without following a formal process under the FOI Act. [Agencies to insert types of information]

You should also check the information we have published under the Information Publication Scheme [link] and FOI disclosure log [link] to see if what you are seeking is already available.

How to make a request

Your request must:

  • be in writing
  • state that the request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act
  • provide information about the document(s) to assist us to process your request
  • provide an address for reply.

You can use the request form [if applicable] or you can send your request:

By post
FOI Contact Officer
Branch
Department
Address

By email
foi@agency.gov.au

[Agencies to insert information about proof of authority they require for a third party to act, for example:

If you ask a third party to make an FOI request on your behalf, you need to provide a specific, written authority to send copies of documents to you, care of that person, or to allow that person to inspect copies of documents containing information about you.]

If you require assistance with your request, please contact the FOI Contact Officer on XX XXXX XXXX or by email at foi@agency.gov.au

Fees and charges

There is no application fee for an FOI request.

There are no processing charges for requests for access to documents containing only personal information about you. However, processing charges may apply to other requests. The most common charges are:

Activity item

Charge

Search and retrieval: time we spend searching for or retrieving a document

$15.00 per hour

Decision making: time we spend in deciding to grant or refuse a request, including examining documents, consulting with other parties, and making deletions

First five hours: Nil

Subsequent hours: $20 per hour

Transcript: preparing a transcript from a sound recording, shorthand or similar medium

$4.40 per page of transcript

Photocopy

$0.10 per page

Inspection: supervision by an agency officer of your inspection of documents or hearing or viewing an audio or visual recording at our premises

$6.25 per half hour (or part thereof)

Delivery: posting or delivering a copy of a document at your request

Cost of postage or delivery

If we decide to impose a charge, we will give you a written estimate and the basis of our calculation. Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, we may ask you to pay a deposit of $20, or where the estimated charge exceeds $100, we may ask you to pay a 25% deposit before we process your request.

You can ask for the charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. If you do so, you should explain your reasons and you may need to provide some evidence.

What you can expect from us

We will tell you within 14 days that we have received your request. We will also give you an estimate of the charges that apply to your request. We will give you our decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended. If a document contains information about a third party, we will need to consult them and may need to extend the time to give you our decision by another 30 days. We may also seek your agreement to extend the time by up to 30 days if your request is complex.

If you disagree with our decision

When we have made a decision about your FOI request, we will send you a letter explaining our decision and your review and appeal rights.

You can ask for the following decisions to be reviewed:

  • if we refuse to give you access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access
  • if we impose a charge
  • if we refuse to change or annotate information about you that you claim is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.

A third party who disagrees with our decision to give you documents that contain information about them can also ask for our decision to be reviewed.

Internal review

You can request in writing that we reconsider our decision through an internal review. An internal review will be conducted by another officer in our agency. We will advise you of our new decision within 30 days of receiving your request.

Information Commissioner review

You can ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review our original decision or our decision on internal review within 60 days of the date of decision (or 30 days after you are notified if you are an affected third party). The Information Commissioner can affirm or vary the decision or substitute a new decision. The Information Commissioner may decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances. More information is available at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website at www.oaic.gov.au.

Complaints

If you are unhappy with the way we have handled your request, you can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner who may investigate our actions. More information is available on the OAIC’s website at www.oaic.gov.au. The Commonwealth Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about our actions. However, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner will consult to avoid the same matter being investigated twice.

More information

If you require more information, please contact the FOI Contact Officer on XX XXXX XXXX or by email at foi@agency.gov.au

Certain documents that we have released under the FOI Act can be obtained at our FOI disclosure log page at [insert web page link]. Information about our Information Publication Scheme can be obtained at [insert web page link].