The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW)
(GIPA Act) commenced on 1 July 2010 replacing the
Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW). The object of the GIPA Act
is to maintain and advance a system of responsible and
representative democratic Government that is open, accountable,
fair and effective by:
authorising and encouraging the proactive public release of
government information by NSW Government agencies;
giving members of the public an enforceable right to access
government information; and
providing that access to government information is restricted
only when there is an overriding public interest against
The Office of the Information Commissioner
(OIC) periodically releases consultation papers to
receive feedback and have a better understanding of the issues
surrounding the working of the GIPA Act.
The most recent consultation paper is "Consultation paper
2: fees and charges under the GIPA Act - issues for agencies"
The OIC has recently issued the Consultation Paper with a goal
identify how the fees and charges provisions are working in
assess the impact that fees and charges have on affordability
of, and access to, information under the GIPA Act; and
see whether the fees and charges provisions help to promote the
objects of the GIPA Act to maintain open and accountable government
by facilitating access to information at the lowest reasonable
The objective of the GIPA Act is not to enable agencies to
recover their costs, but to provide a mechanism whereby members of
the public can gain access to government information promptly and
at the lowest reasonable cost. The OIC seeks views from NSW
Government agencies on whether the fees and charges are effective
in meeting this objective.
In most cases, government information sought under the GIPA Act
should be made available free of charge. However, the GIPA Act
permits NSW Government agencies to charge certain fees and charges,
including the following:
an application fee of $30;
a processing charge of $30 per hour for dealing with formal
access applications (the first 20 hours of processing applications
for personal information are free);
an advance deposit of up to 50% of the total estimated
processing charge; and
a $40 fee to conduct an internal review of a decision made
regarding an access application.
Agencies also have a general discretion to reduce or waive any
fees or charges under the GIPA Act. For formal access applications,
NSW Government agencies must reduce the processing charges by 50%
the applicant is suffering financial hardship; or
the information sought would be of special benefit to the
The OIC is seeking agency feedback on the following issues in
respect of the fees and charges provisions of the GIPA Act.
Underlying policy basis: whether the
provisions benefit NSW Government agencies overall, whether the
provisions help promote the objects of the GIPA Act and whether the
provisions should remain in their current form.
Clarity of the provisions, including calculation of
processing charges: whether the provisions are clear and
easy to interpret and apply and what further guidance, if any, NSW
Government agencies would like about fees and charges.
Agency practice: what practices NSW Government
agencies have adopted in respect of processing or billing that work
well, what difficulties have NSW Government agencies faced, and the
ways in which these have been overcome, and whether the capacity to
accept online payment would be beneficial.
Feedback is to be provided by Tuesday, 31 January
The OIC has provided a questionnaire, in the Consultation Paper,
as well as a section for general comments. It should be noted that
all responses will be published on the OIC website. A link to the
Consultation Paper can be found here.
The OIC will consider the responses and will write a report that
may result in any of the following:
a special report to Parliament on the issues raised;
recommendations for reform of the GIPA Act or the regulations;
targeted guidance or training for NSW Government agencies on
interpreting and applying the fees and charges
If you would like any assistance on preparing a response, or
would like any specific information on the current operation of the
GIPA Act, please contact us.
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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