Simpler process needed for FOI, says report

The Federal Government should make it simpler to use Freedom of Information laws, but “disproportionate use” should be “curbed”, a new report finds.

Kirsty Simpson, The Age, reports:

After a 5-month investigation the Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan has called for an overhaul of the way Freedom of Information requests are managed.

“The lowest reasonable cost” should be applied to FOI requests to ensure no-one was put off from making requests for information, according to a 98-page report posted on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website today.

The report calls for the introduction of a cap on charges, but also for the indexing of fees – so they would rise in line with inflation.

Any request that can be processed within 10 hours should be charged processing fees of no more than $50. For more complicated requests there should be a cap of $950, and “a discretionary ceiling of 40 hours processing time, beyond which an agency or minister could refuse to process an FOI request following consultation with the applicant,” Professor McMillan said in a statement.

The simplification of charges – based on hours needed to process the request — was welcomed by FOI expert Lizzie Simpson, a solicitor at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. But the move to knock back requests which could take more than 40 hours was a retrograde step, she added.


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