While you’re here… help us stay here.

Are you enjoying open access to policy and research published by a broad range of organisations? Please donate today so that we can continue to provide this service.

Discussion paper
Report cover

Nothing to see here: Australia’s broken freedom of information system

Freedom of information Government accountability Public service Access to information Australia

Australia’s freedom of information (FOI) system is dysfunctional and under-resourced. At least in part, this is likely because governments prioritise protecting themselves from embarrassment over disclosing to the public the information to which it is lawfully entitled.

Evidence that Australia’s FOI system is sick is readily available. Three in 10 FOI requests are not decided within the statutory timeframe, and many of these are over three months late. Last year, there were 9,202 requests in the FOI backlog, up from 3,313 in 2017-18. Even once a decision is made, it is not guaranteed to be correct: in recent years, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has set aside or varied the original decision in about half of all complaints.

Reforms could tighten the FOI system by closing loopholes, opening more avenues for redress and requiring minimum staffing levels for FOI teams. Ultimately, however, the problems with Australia’s FOI system are cultural. A review into public service culture is needed.

Publication Details
License type:
All Rights Reserved
Access Rights Type: