You can ask us for an Information Commissioner (IC) review, if you’re not happy with a decision in response to your freedom of information (FOI) request. You can also ask us for an IC review if the agency has not made a decision within the time the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) allows.
Under the FOI Act we can review an FOI decision of an agency or minister. For example, an IC review may decide that a document is not exempt, or that a charge should be reduced or not applied.
We recommend that you apply for an internal review first. An internal review gives the agency or minister’s office the opportunity to reconsider their original decision. Your needs may also be met more quickly — as a 30 day time limit for a decision applies.
If you’ve applied for an internal review, generally we wait for its outcome before starting an IC review.
How do you apply?
You must apply in writing with:
- your name and contact details
- a copy of the agency or minister’s decision that you disagree with (if you’ve received one)
- the reason(s) why you disagree with the decision.
We recommend you write to us using our online FOI review form.
If you’re unable to use our online form, download and complete our FOI review form (Microsoft Word 60 KB). Then send it to us either by:
- email, send it to email@example.com (be aware that email isn’t encrypted, so it can be copied or tracked)
- mail, send it to the Director of FOI Dispute Resolution, GPO Box 5288, Sydney NSW 2001 (send it by registered mail if you’re concerned about sending it by standard post).
Help to apply
If you need:
- hearing or speech assistance, contact us through the National Relay Service
- a translator, contact us through the Translating and Interpreting Service
For all other help, please phone our Enquiries Line (1300 363 992).
Is there a charge?
Is there a time limit for applying?
If you’re not happy with an agency or minister’s decision, be sure to act promptly if you decide to apply for an IC review, as time limits apply.
|If you disagree with an agency or minister’s decision to …||After receiving the decision in writing, apply to us within ...|
Charge for access
Refuse to correct a document
You can ask us for more time to apply, but we’ll only give you more time if we think your reasons are valid.
What happens when we receive your application?
We’ll let you know in writing when we’ve received your application. We also let the agency or minister who made the FOI decision know too. We may contact you, the agency or the minister that made the FOI decision, and any other party involved. An ‘other party’ may be an individual who has been consulted about information about them or their business in the document you requested.
Sometimes we may be able to resolve the matters you raised in your application informally, without the Information Commissioner needing to make a decision. Otherwise:
- we may decide not to review your application, or
- the Information Commissioner will make a decision.
We prefer to keep the review process as informal as possible.
What a review adviser does
If the Information Commissioner needs to make a decision, we’ll assign a review adviser. They’ll let you and the agency or minister who made the FOI decision know, in writing, that they’re handling your application and give you their contact details.
The review adviser will review all information any party involved gives them. They may contact any party involved and also make further enquiries. They must review all relevant material, including any document the agency or minister has refused to disclose. They’ll also consider any developments since the agency or minister made their decision. They may also decide not to review your application.
The review adviser may be able to resolve the matters you raised in your application, getting all parties involved to agree to a new decision. Or, the agency or minister who made the FOI decision may decide to make another decision which you agree with. If not, the review adviser’s recommendation goes to the Information Commissioner.
What the Information Commissioner does
The Information Commissioner personally makes all IC review decisions.
The Information Commissioner has power under the FOI Act to ask anyone to produce a document and compel anyone to answer questions under oath. They can also ask an agency or minister to do further searches for a document.
Generally, an IC review does not involve a hearing. Any party involved may ask for a hearing, but the Information Commissioner only holds a hearing in unusual circumstances. If the review raises confidential matters, the Information Commissioner may hold all or some of the hearing in private.
The possible outcomes
The Information Commissioner will do one of the following:
- set aside the decision and make a new decision (the original decision is replaced with a new decision)
- affirm the decision (the original decision stays)
- vary the decision (only some parts of the original decision are changed).
The Information Commissioner will give reasons for their decision and let all parties involved know in writing of their decision.
We publish all Information Commissioner review decisions. Your name as the applicant will be disclosed, unless you ask for it not to be.
Why we may not review your application
We may decide not to review your application if:
- we think it’s lacking in substance, misconceived, not made in good faith, vexatious or frivolous
- we can’t contact you after trying a reasonable number of times
- you don’t cooperate with us during the review process.
If we decide not to review your application for any of the above reasons, you may apply to the Federal Court.
On rare occasions, we may decide that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) would be better placed to review your application. If so, we’ll consult with you before making our decision and give you information about applying to the AAT.
Can you withdraw your application for an IC review?
Yes. You can withdraw your IC review application at any time before the Information Commissioner makes a decision. If you want to withdraw your application, you must write and tell us.
If you’re not happy with the Information Commissioner’s decision, you have 28 days to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal