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Thursday, 25 March 2004
Page: 27373


Ms Roxon asked the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, upon notice, on 2 March 2004:

(1) Can the Minister indicate (a) whether the Minister's department has a dedicated Freedom of Information (FOI) officer, and (b) how many officers are employed to deal with FOI requests, and (c) at what levels they are employed.

(2) How many applications did the department have under the FOI Act in the 2002-2003 financial year and how did this figure compare to previous years.

(3) How many internal reviews of applications occurred in the last financial year and how many internal reviews affirmed the original decision.

(4) Can the information in (2) and (3) be broken down into applications requesting individual information and applications requesting information for other reasons (i.e. media, opposition MPs etc).

(5) What proportion of cases go to external review and what proportion of these are upheld.

(6) In respect of fees for FOI applications, (a) how much was charged, (b) how much was actually collected, and (c) what proportion of fees were waived.

(7) How much did the Minister's department spend in defending FOI appeals.

(8) In respect of refusals to grant requests, can the Minister provide details on (a) which exemption categories are used when information is refused, and (b) what proportion of refusals are in each category (i.e. commercial-in-confidence and other categories).

(9) Will the Minister provide statistics over the last 5 years indicating whether the use of particular exemption categories is static, falling or increasing.


Mr Andrews (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —The answer to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

(1) The department has a team, consisting of four people, which handles Freedom of Information (`FOI') matters. The team members are employed at the following levels:

one Principal Government Lawyer (`the FOI Officer');

two APS 6 (one part time); and

one APS 5 (part time).

(2) The department had 98 applications made to it under the FOI Act in the 2002-2003 financial year. Figures for previous years are as follows:

68 applications in 2001-2002;

72 applications in 2000-2001; and

93 applications in 1999-2000.

(3) There were nine requests for internal review in the 2002-2003 financial year. Of the nine internal reviews conducted by the department:

one affirmed the original decision;

seven granted partial access; and

one was withdrawn by the applicant.

(4) In relation to question two above, of the 98 applications made in the 2002-2003 financial year, 72 requested access to documents containing personal information about the applicant and 26 requested access to documents containing information other than personal information about the applicant. The figures for the three financial years prior to that are as follows:

of the 68 applications made in 2001-2002, 55 requested access to documents containing personal information about the applicant and 13 requested access to documents containing information other than personal information about the applicant;

of the 72 applications made in 2000-2001, 50 requested access to documents containing personal information about the applicant and 22 requested access to documents containing information other than personal information about the applicant;

no breakdown of the 93 requests made in 1999-2000 is available.

In relation to question three above, of the nine internal reviews three involved requests for access to documents containing personal information about the applicant and six involved requests for access to documents containing information other than personal information about the applicant.

(5) In the 2002-2003 financial year, two FOI matters went to external review (both with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal). One of these is ongoing and one was withdrawn.

(6) In the 2002-2003 financial year, the department notified charges in the amount of $16,363 and collected charges in the amount of $5,654. In relation to fees, for the 2002-2003 financial year, the department collected $1,200 for initial processing fees and $80 for fees for internal review - the total amount for fees collected being $1,280. The department does not keep statistics on the amount of fees that are remitted or the proportion of fees and charges waived.

(7) As indicated in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 Annual Report 2002-2003 presented to Parliament by the Attorney-General, in the 2002-2003 financial year the department spent $43,215 in `Legal Counsel Fees' and $63,767 in `Solicitors' Fees'.

(8) I am unable to provide such details, and note that the FOI reporting provisions do not require the keeping of statistics in this regard.

(9) I am unable to provide such statistics (see answer to question 8).