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Wednesday, 15 March 2000
Page: 12910


Senator Faulkner asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, upon notice, on 20 September 1999:

(1) Of the requests for disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act dealt with by the department, or any agency in the portfolio, since 3 March 1996, how many requests have been made by: (a) a member of the House of Representatives; or (b) a member of the Senate.

(2) Of the cases relevant to (a) and (b) in (1), how many requests regarding access were: (a) partially successful; or (b) refused.

(3) Of the cases relevant to (a) and (b) in (1), how many requests regarding charges were: (a) partially successful; or (b) refused.

(4) Of the cases relevant to (2) and (3), how many of the department's or agency's written reasons for decision used, as grounds for refusal under the Act, a reference to members of Parliament having access to parliamentary processes to seek information from departments.

(5) Is the department, or any agency in the portfolio, aware of any provision contained in legislation, or departmental guidelines, or practice where the applicant's employment provision can be, or has been, used as grounds for refusing access to documents and/or refusing to waive charges, other than that set out in (4).


Senator Alston (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) (a) and (b) The status of an applicant under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Act) as a Member of Parliament is not a matter relevant to the consideration of an application under the Act, and the department has never sought to collect that information. The Attorney-General's Department does not require the department to keep statistics as to whether a request was made by (a) a member of the House of Representatives; or (b) a member of the Senate. To the best of the department's knowledge there have been two requests for access to information under the Act from members recently. However the department believes that it would be an unreasonable diversion of its resources to attempt to establish how many FOI requests have been made by Members and Senators.

(2) Both requests known to the department were partially successful in gaining access.

(3) Both requests known to the department had remission or waiver of charges refused under section 29 of the Act. There was one request for review under section 54 of the Act and on review the decision was upheld.

(4) The department applies the provisions in subsection 11(2) of the Act in the processing requests. Subsection 11(2) provides that a person's right of access is not affected by any reasons the person gives for seeking access, or the agency's belief as to what are his or her reasons for seeking access. The department is not aware of any request being refused on the grounds that Members of Parliament have access to parliamentary processes to seek information from departments. The department applies the exemption and refusal provisions of the Act to decide whether not documents are exempt and whether requests should be refused.

(5) The department is not aware of any provisions or practice for refusing access to documents and or refusing to waive charges, on the grounds of an applicant's employment provision.

The following portfolio agencies have provided the following answers to the honourable senator's question.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AGENCY

DEFENCE FORCE REMUNERATION TRIBUNAL

SEAFARERS SAFETY, REHABILITATION AND COMPENSATION AUTHORITY

(1) to (5) The Affirmative Action Agency, the Seafarers Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority and the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal have not received any requests for information under the Act for the period in question.

AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRIAL REGISTRY

OFFICE OF THE EMPLOYMENT ADVOCATE

NATIONAL OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY COMMISSION

(1) to (5) none/not applicable

COMCARE

(1) to (5) The Attorney-General's quarterly statistical return does not require this information, and it is not recorded by Comcare.