In this legal update, we look at the changes to fees and charges
for FOI requests that have recently been announced as part of the
broader reforms to the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(Cth) (FOI Act). These changes were announced by
the Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, the Hon
Brendan O'Connor MP (Minister). The majority of these measures,
including the changes to fees and charges, commenced on 1 November
2010 and are intended to encourage a more pro-disclosure culture
with respect to government information. For further details in
relation to these FOI reforms, see our previous
The key changes to FOI fees and charges are as follows:
the $30.00 application fee for FOI requests by all applicants
has been abolished
the charges for decision-making time (previously $20.00 per
hour), have been reduced so that the first five hours are free and
any subsequent decision-making time is charged at $20.00 per
the fee for internal reviews (previously $40.00) has been
fees no longer apply if an applicant is not notified of an FOI
decision within the statutory time limits in the FOI Act, and
fees no longer apply to FOI requests in respect of personal
information of the applicant.
There is no change to the current charges for time spent
searching and retrieving documents in response to an FOI request
($15.00 per hour).
According to the Minister, these changes are part of the largest
ever overhaul of the FOI Act and evidence that the Commonwealth
Government is committed to improving transparency and
accountability across government.
The changes will be of significant benefit to the private
sector. In the 2008-09 financial year, a total of 27,561 FOI
requests were made to Commonwealth Government Ministers and
agencies. A total of $175,514 was collected for FOI application
fees and internal review application fees, and a total of
$1,739,706 was levied for other FOI charges. The reduction in FOI
fees and charges will remove some of the cost barriers for those
seeking access to Commonwealth government information and is likely
to lead to an increased volume of FOI requests.
The establishment of the Office of the Australian Information
Commissioner (OAIC) and the new statutory
appointments of the Australian Information Commissioner and Freedom
of Information Commissioner, who have powers to review FOI
decisions and investigate complaints, will also allow for greater
transparency in the FOI application process, including decision to
impose fees and charges. For an overview of the structure of the
OAIC and key aspects of its functions and powers, see our previous
According to the Minister, the Australian Information
Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, will undertake a
comprehensive review of FOI fees and charges within twelve months
of his appointment.
We have extensive experience in the areas of freedom of
information and information access and have been following the
Commonwealth FOI reforms closely. Please contact us if you require
advice or assistance in relation to obtaining access to
Commonwealth government information under the FOI Act.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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