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Wednesday, 15 March 2000
Page: 12912


Senator Faulkner asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 21 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) 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 Ellison (Special Minister of State) —The Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The status of an applicant as a Member of Parliament is not a matter relevant to the consideration of an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, and as such the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA) has never sought to collect that information. The current portfolio arrangements came into existence on 21 October 1998. Of the 26 matters handled by DETYA since 21 October 1998 to the date of this question, one request was from a Member of the House of Representatives and no requests have been received from a Senator.

(2) The status of an applicant as a Member of Parliament is not a matter relevant to the consideration of an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, and as such DETYA has never sought to collect that information. With regard to the single matter handled by DETYA since 21 October 1998, the request was withdrawn by the applicant.

(3) The status of an applicant as a Member of Parliament may provide some basis for an argument that fees and charges should be waived on the grounds that the release of the documents or information is in the public interest. With regard to the single matter handled by the DETYA since 21 October 1998, the applicant did not submit a request for remission of fees or charges to the Department.

(4) The status of an applicant as a Member of Parliament is not a matter relevant to the consideration of an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, and as such DETYA has never sought to collect that information. With regard to the single matter handled by the Department since 21 October 1998, no decision was made as the application was withdrawn.

(5) The applicant's employment provision, of its own, is only relevant where the person is on a prescribed benefit and seeking access to information about themselves. In all other circumstances, the applicant's employment provision, of its own, is not a specific ground on which a decision can be made. However, a person's income may well effect a decision to waive fees and charges if the applicant argues financial hardship and a person's employment may add or detract from an argument that the fees and charges should be remitted as the release of the documents will add to the public debate. Some guidance on these matters is contained in the FOI Memoranda produced by the Attorney-General's Department and relevant case law.