This report reviews Australia's freedom of information laws and the extent to which they provide an effective framework for access to government information.
Summary of findings
The Review finds that the reforms have been operating as intended and have been generally well-received.
Many concerns in submissions raised issues not directly addressed by the 2009 and 2010 reform packages.
Administration of FOI represents a significant cost and resource commitment for the Australian Government and its agencies. A key challenge for agencies, and for the OAIC, is to adopt and maintain practices to process FOI requests effectively and efficiently within their resources.
Legislative and administrative changes to streamline FOI procedures, reduce complexity and increase capacity to manage FOI workload both by agencies and the OAIC are recommended. The Review also recommends changes and adjustments to the operation of the exemptions, fees and charges, and coverage of specific agencies. In making these recommendations, the Review focussed on ensuring that the right of access to government information remains as comprehensive as possible.
There are exemptions for certain classes of documents and agencies. The Review believes that these are warranted despite their limiting effect on the release of government information. The most used exemption is the personal privacy exemption, being applied in 58% of cases where exemptions were used, or in 17.3% of FOI requests.