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Freedom of Information Guidelines

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives members of the public a general right of access to documents of an agency and official documents of a Minister, other than exempt documents or parts of documents. Exemptions may relate to national security, material obtained in confidence, Cabinet documents, or other matters set out in the FOI Act.

The Act allows individuals access to their personal records held by Government and enables them to correct any personal information that is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.

The Act also requires an agency to publish information on its operations under the Information Publication Scheme and a disclosure log of information that has been accessed under Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. A potential applicant may find the information they are seeking is already available in those publications.

How to apply for access to documents

To make an FOI request the applicant should:

The request will be valid from the date that the request has been clearly clarified.

Request process

The Inspector-General of Taxation (IGT) will process all FOI requests within 30 days unless:

Once the FOI request has been completed by the IGT, any available documents will be forwarded to the applicant. If the requested documents or parts of them are within an exemption specified in the Act, the IGT will provide reasons for the decision to exempt.

The FOI Act provides that from 1 May 2011 a disclosure log of information accessed under FOI requests must be published, except for personal, business or certain other information set out in section 11C of the Act.

Charges

There is no application fee for an FOI request. Processing charges may apply to requests other than for documents containing only personal information. The charges are in accordance with regulations made under the FOI Act.

If there is a charge, the applicant will receive a written estimate and advice how the charge is calculated. Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, IGT may ask for a deposit of $20, or a 25% deposit where the estimated charge exceeds $100, before the application is processed.

Applicants can ask for a charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. Evidence may be requested.

Review Rights

Applicants have the right of a review of FOI decisions made by the IGT. The following options are available:

Internal Review

An internal review may be granted in relation to a decision not to grant access to documents or parts of documents. An application for review should be made within 30 days of receiving the decision. This time can be extended in certain circumstances.

An independent review of the decision will be undertaken and a decision made within 30 days.

Review by the Australian Information Commissioner

Applications may be made to the Australian Information Commissioner for a review of the following decisions:

Applications must be made within 60 days after receiving the decision to be reviewed. The Australian Information Commissioner may extend that time in certain circumstances.

More information can be found on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s website at www.oaic.gov.au.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)

Decisions made by the Australian Information Commissioner may be appealed through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Australian Information Commissioner will provide information on how to appeal in their response.