The PSR Agency will process all Freedom of Information requests within 30 days unless:
- the subject matter is more closely connected to another agency, which may result in transfer to the relevant or appropriate agency;
- third party consultations are required, in which case an additional 30 days may be added; or
- additional time is requested by the Australian Information Commissioner in cases of complex or voluminous requests; or
- a decision has been made to impose charges.
The date of receipt of an FOI request is governed by section 15(5)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), which provides that an agency must notify a person of a decision on a request 'not later than 30 days after the day on which the request is received by or on behalf of the agency'.
An applicant will be advised within 14 days that PSR has received their request, with an estimate, where applicable, of any charges that may apply.
PSR will make a decision on whether to release a document or documents covered by an FOI request within 30 days. However, the 30 day time period may be extended:
- This may happen where a document contains information about a third party. We will need to consult them and may need to extend the time to give an applicant our decision by another 30 days.
- We may also seek the agreement of an applicant to extend the time by up to 30 days if the FOI request is complex.
Once the FOI request has been completed any available documents will be forwarded to the applicant. If the requested documents or parts of the documents are within an exemption specified in the FOI Act, PSR will provide reasons for our decision to exempt.
In accordance with section 11C of the FOI Act, PSR will publish all responses to FOI requests (other than personal or exempt information) in the FOI disclosure log on the PSR website within 10 working days of providing the response to the applicant.
If an applicant disagrees with our decision
When we have made a decision about an FOI request, we will send the applicant a letter explaining our decision and the review and appeal rights of applicants.
Decisions can be subject to review where we:
- refuse to give provide access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access
- impose a charge
- refuse to change or annotate information about an applicant that they claim is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.
A third party who disagrees with our decision to give an applicant documents that contain information about them can also ask for our decision to be reviewed.
Applicants have the right of a review of FOI decisions made by PSR. A right of review can be exercised in the following ways:
Internal review by PSR
An applicant can request in writing that PSR reconsider a decision not to grant access to documents or parts of documents through an internal review.
An internal review will be conducted by another officer in PSR. We will advise you of our new decision within 30 days of receiving your request. This time can be extended in certain circumstances.
Review by the Australian Information Commissioner
Applications may be made to the Australian Information Commissioner for a review of the following decisions:
- an internal review;
- a deemed decision (i.e, where a decision was not made in the specified time);
- an original decision (i.e, where an applicant elects to skip an internal review); or
- a decision to refuse additional time to make an internal review request.
Applications must be made within 60 days after receiving the decision to be reviewed decision (or 30 days after a person is notified if they are an affected third party).
The Australian Information Commissioner:
- can affirm or vary the decision or substitute a new decision.
- may extend that time in certain circumstances.
- may decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances.
More information is available at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)
Decisions made by the Australian Information Commissioner may be appealed through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Australian Information Commissioner will provide information on how to appeal in their response.
Fees and charges
For a number of actions taken under FOI (as outlined below), there are no charges:
- There is no application fee payable for an FOI request or application for internal review.
- An applicant who seeks access to their own personal information does not pay any charges. There are no processing charges for requests for access to documents containing only personal information about the applicant.
- For all other applications, the first five hours of decision-making time is free of charge.
- No charges are payable where an agency or Minister fails to notify a decision within a period prescribed in the Act (including a permitted extension period).
The FOI Act provides that charges involved in processing other FOI requests may be levied. The rates of charges are fixed in accordance with regulations made under the Act.
Further information can be found at Freedom of Information (Fees and Charges) Amendment Regulations 2010 (No. 1), which amends the Freedom of Information (Charges) Regulations.
The most common activities (and related charges) are:
- Search and retrieval: time we spend searching for or retrieving a document $15.00 per hour
- Decision making: time we spend in deciding to grant or refuse a request, including examining documents, consulting with other parties, and making deletions First five hours: nil Subsequent hours: $20 per hour
- Transcript: preparing a transcript from a sound recording, shorthand or similar medium $4.40 per page of transcript
- Photocopy: a photocopy of a written document $0.10 per page
- Other copies: a copy of a written document other than a photocopy $4.40 per page
- Inspection: supervision by an agency officer of your inspection of documents or hearing or viewing an audio or visual recording at our premises $6.25 per half hour (or part thereof)
- Delivery: posting or delivering a copy of a document at your request Cost of postage or delivery
If PSR decides to impose a charge, we will give applicants a written estimate and the basis of our calculation.
- Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, we may ask an applicant to pay a deposit of $20.
- Where the estimated charge exceeds $100, we may ask an applicant to pay a 25% deposit before we process the request.
Applicants can ask for the charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. In these cases, applicants should explain their reasons and may be asked to provide some evidence.
Amendment of Information
An applicant may request amendments to their personal information contained in documents that are being used or is available for use for an administrative purpose if the information is incomplete, misleading or out of date.
An application for amendment must:
- be in writing;
- say why the information is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading and what amendments are required;
- specify an address in Australia for correspondence to be sent or delivered to.
PSR must notify the applicant of a decision within 30 days. A review of a decision may be sought.
If an applicant is unhappy with the way a request is handled, an applicant can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner who may investigate our actions. More information is available on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about our actions. However, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner will consult to avoid the same matter being investigated twice.