You may find the information you want from an Australian Government agency or minister without needing to make a freedom of information (FOI) request. The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) encourages agencies to publish information they hold proactively.
You can find information released under FOI on an agency or minister’s disclosure log.
Each agency publishes a range of information under the Information Publication Scheme, such as their organisational structure, functions, appointments, annual reports, consultation arrangements and details about who to contact to access their information or documents.
In the spirit of open and transparent government, the FOI Act makes Australian Government agencies, with some exceptions, and ministers publish on their website information they’ve released under the FOI Act. They publish this information on a disclosure log.
You may find a disclosure log on an agency’s website by looking for the disclosure log icon or searching for ‘freedom of information’ or ‘disclosure log’.
Is everything released under the FOI Act published?
No. An agency or minister may decide, if it is unreasonable, not to publish on their disclosure log:
- personal information about any individual
- information about the business, commercial, financial or professional affairs of any individual
- other information of a kind the Information Commissioner determines
When is information is published on a disclosure log?
An agency or minister must publish on a disclosure log the information they gave to an FOI applicant within 10 working days of giving access to it.
Is there a charge?
Information an agency or minister publishes on their website is free.
However, there may be situations where it’s not practical for an agency or minister to publish information on its website. To make information available in another form, an agency or minister may need to charge to cover costs (for example, reproduction costs). If a charge applies, the agency or minister will publish the details on their website.
What is our role with disclosure logs?
We can issue guidelines on disclosure logs which agencies and ministers must consider.
We can also investigate if an agency’s disclosure log complies with the FOI Act.
The Information Commissioner may also make a determination that certain kinds of information should not be published on a disclosure log.
If you think an agency’s disclosure log isn’t complying with the FOI Act, you can lodge a complaint with us.
Information Publication Scheme
The Information Publication Scheme (IPS) makes agencies, with some exceptions, publish on their website certain information they hold, as well as an information publication plan. The IPS encourages agencies to be open and transparent, and consider publishing information that they aren’t obliged to publish.
The published information must be accurate, up to date and complete. You may find it on an agency’s website by looking for the IPS icon or searching for ‘freedom of information’ or ’IPS’.
The IPS doesn’t require an agency to publish information exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act or is prohibited from being released under other laws.
What is an information publication plan?
An information publication plan explains what information the agency proposes to publish, how they intend to publish it and what else they intend to do to comply with the IPS. Usually, an agency publishes their information publication plan on their website.
What other information must be published?
An agency must publish on their website:
- details of their structure (for example, an organisational chart)
- details of their functions, including their decision-making powers and other powers affecting the public
- details of statutory appointments
- their annual reports
- details of consultations for the public to comment on specific policy proposals
- information in documents that the agency routinely gives access to in response to requests under the FOI Act
- information that they routinely give to the Australian Parliament
- details of an officer(s) who can be contacted about access to the agency’s documents under the FOI Act
- their operational information (information that helps the agency exercise their functions or powers to make decisions or recommendations that affect the public, such as their rules, guidelines, practices and precedents about those decisions or recommendations).
An agency may publish other information, apart from the above information. For example, statistical information that researchers or the public would find useful.
Is there a charge?
Information an agency publishes on their website is free.
However, there may be situations where it’s not practical for an agency to publish information on their website. To make information available in another form, an agency may need to charge to cover costs (for example, reproduction costs). If a charge applies, the agency will publish the details on their website.
What is our role in the IPS?
We can issue guidelines on the IPS which agencies must consider, and offer advice and training.
The Information Commissioner can investigate a complaint about how an agency administers their IPS and may also make a determination that certain kinds of information may not be published under the IPS.
We also review how each agency carried out the IPS every five years.
If you think an agency isn’t complying with the IPS, you can lodge a complaint with us.