Quick guide: Information Commissioner review direction for applicants

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) handles applications for reviews of freedom of information (FOI) decisions made by an Australian Government agency or minister. 

You can seek an Information Commissioner (IC) review if you are unhappy with an FOI decision, or it has not been made within the statutory timeframe. 

This ‘Quick guide’ provides a summary of the Direction as to certain procedures to be followed by applicants in Information Commissioner reviews issued on 1 September 2021. The numbers in brackets refer to the paragraphs in the direction. 

IC review process

  • The IC review process is intended to be informal, non-adversarial and timely. The IC review processes and procedures can be found in Part VII of the FOI Act and Part 10 of the Guidelines (see 1.9).  

Making an application for IC review

  • Your application must be made in writing and should be made using the online application form (see 1.10 – 1.11).
  • Your application must include your contact details including name, telephone number and email address (see 1.12 – 1.13).
  • If you require assistance, this must be set out in the application which should provide details of your nominated representative and evidence of their authority (see 1.14).
  • An application may be made by or on behalf of the person who made the request to which the decision relates (see 1.15). 
  • Your application must include the agency or minister’s decision, or – if no decision has been made – a copy of your FOI request (see 1.16).
  • Where there is a choice between applying for internal review or IC review, the Information Commissioner is of the view that it is usually better to seek internal review first (see 1.17).
  • You can ask the OAIC for assistance with making an application for IC review (see 1.17 – 1.19).
  • If an application does not meet the requirements, it may be considered to be invalid (see 1.20).

Changes to contact details

  • You should advise the OAIC of any change to your contact details as soon as possible (1.21).

Participation in IC review processes

  • You must respond to enquiries from the OAIC within the period provided unless there are special circumstances or an extension has been granted (see 1.22).

  • You must cooperate in progressing the IC review and must respond to contact by the OAIC. This includes being available to participate in alternative dispute resolution processes (see 1.23 – 1.24). 

Submissions

  • You will be provided with a reasonable opportunity to make written submissions or to respond to issues within the scope of the review (see 1.25). 

  • Submissions will be shared between the parties unless there is a reason not to do so (see 1.26).

  • Confidential submissions will not be accepted unless an application to make confidential submissions has first been received and accepted (see 1.27).

Information Commissioner decision

  • All parties to the IC review will receive a copy of the written reasons for the decision and the decision will be published online (see 1.29).

  • Decisions will quote or summarise submissions made unless they are confidential (see 1.30).

  • Individual applicants can choose not to be named in the decision. Other applicants such as companies may provide reasons for wishing not to be named which will be considered on a case-by-case basis (see 1.31).

Procedure for IC review of specific types of decision

  • The procedures that apply to deemed access refusal, access refusal and access grant decisions are found in Part 3 of the direction (see 1.32 – 1.39).

Non-compliance 

  • If parties fail to comply with the direction the Information Commissioner may decide not to undertake or continue an IC review (see 1.40 – 1.41).