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FOI fact sheet 14: Freedom of information — Disclosure logs

Reforms to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act), which commenced on 1 May 2011, require agencies and ministers to publish information that they have released under the Act. This publication is known as a ‘disclosure log’. These reforms, together with the new information publication scheme (see FOI fact sheet 4: The information publication scheme for Australian Government agencies), aim to transform the freedom of information framework from one that responds to individual requests for access to documents to one that also requires agencies and ministers to take a proactive approach to publishing information. This will build a stronger foundation for greater openness and transparency in government.

What is a disclosure log?

Agencies and ministers are required to publish a disclosure log listing information that they have released after 1 May 2011 in response to FOI access requests.

A small number of agencies including security and intelligence agencies are exempt from the FOI Act and do not need to publish a disclosure log.

Will all information accessed under the FOI Act be published in a disclosure log?

No. If publication would be unreasonable, an agency or minister does not need to publish in its disclosure log:

  • personal information about any person
  • information about the business, commercial, financial or professional affairs of any person
  • other information of a kind determined by the Information Commissioner (any such determination will be published on our website at www.oaic.gov.au).

When do agencies and ministers need to publish information in a disclosure log?

Agencies and ministers must publish information in a disclosure log within 10 working days of giving the FOI applicant access to the information.

How do I find an agency’s or a minister’s disclosure log?

Disclosure logs are published on agencies’ and ministers’ websites. In most cases, you will be able to find the disclosure log either by clicking on a disclosure log icon (found on the homepage of some agencies’ and ministers’ websites), or by following the links to ‘Freedom of information’.

Are there any charges for accessing the information?

As a general rule, information published or made available under a disclosure log should be freely accessible by the community.

There may be circumstances where it is not practical for an agency or minister to publish information or data on its website. In making information available in another form (eg by providing a photocopy), an agency or minister may incur costs that it can recoup by imposing a charge. Where charges apply, agencies and ministers will publish details of these on their websites.

What is the Information Commissioner’s role?

The Information Commissioner has a role in monitoring the administration of disclosure logs.

As part of this role, the Commissioner has issued guidelines on disclosure logs which agencies and ministers need to consider. Those guidelines are available on our website at www.oaic.gov.au. The Commissioner may also make a determination that certain kinds of information should not be published in a disclosure log.

The Information Commissioner can also investigate an agency’s compliance with the disclosure log requirements.

I don’t think an agency is complying with the disclosure log requirements — can I make a complaint?

Yes. Anyone can complain to the Information Commissioner about an agency’s actions in relation to its disclosure log. It is best that you first raise the complaint with the agency.

You may lodge a complaint in writing in one of the following ways:
online:        www.oaic.gov.au
post:           GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
fax:             +61 2 9284 9666
email:         enquiries@oaic.gov.au
in person:   Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000

The complaint must identify the agency against which the complaint is made. The Information Commissioner’s staff can help you with lodging your complaint.

The Commissioner’s complaint and investigation functions do not extend to the actions of ministers.

Does the Information Commissioner have to investigate my complaint?

No. The Information Commissioner can decide not to investigate, or not to continue to investigate a complaint.

More information on how to make a complaint is in How do I make an FOI complaint?

The information provided in this fact sheet is of a general nature. It is not a substitute for legal advice.