FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
The Office continues to build and foster an agency culture that embraces appropriate disclosure of its information holdings through the Information Publication Scheme (IPS) on its website at www.gg.gov.au.
The IPS was established by Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) with effect from 1 May 2011. Agencies subject to the FOI Act are required to publish information released to the public as part of their IPS. This requirement has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in annual reports.
The IPS section of the Office’s website publishes other information (in addition to the information published under s 8(2)), taking into account the objects of the FOI Act (s 8(4)).
Optional information is published under the following headings:
This includes a link to relevant sections of the website and the Annual Report
This includes links to the Financial Statements contained within the Annual Report and the Portfolio Budget Statements
This includes a link to the Senate File List, Agency Contracts and Honours Lists
Daily program of official engagements
Copies of selected speeches given by the Governor-General
The Office proactively identifies and publishes information that may be of interest to the public (such as new policies or reviews undertaken), additional to the mandatory requirements, in the Disclosure Log on its IPS.
The Office’s organisational chart and functions are detailed in Chapter 1 of this report and on the website, where a series of links appear in the section on the IPS.
FOI PROCEDURES AND INITIAL CONTACT POINT
The Official Secretary is the principal decision maker under section 23 of the FOI Act in respect of requests for access.
The FOI Act applies to the Office as a body established for a public purpose by an enactment and, therefore, is a ‘prescribed authority’ as defined in section 4.
However, Section 6A of the FOI Act provides:
Official Secretary to the Governor-General
This Act does not apply to any request for access to a document of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General unless the document relates to matters of an administrative nature.
For the purposes of this Act, a document in the possession of a person employed under section 13 of the Governor-General Act 1974 that is in his or her possession by reason of his or her employment under that section shall be taken to be in possession of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General.
The FOI Act therefore has a restricted application to the Office, being relevant only in respect of requests for access to documents that relate to ‘matters of an administrative nature’. The High Court has determined that the FOI Act does not apply to requests for access to documents that relate to the discharge of the Governor-General’s substantive powers and functions.
Members of the public seeking access to documents relating to ‘matters of an administrative nature’ in the possession of the Official Secretary should apply in writing to:
The Official Secretary to the Governor-General
Canberra ACT 2600
Email: FOI.IPS [at] gg.gov.au
Initial enquiries may be directed to the Office’s FOI Contact Officer on telephone (02) 6283 3533.
The Office’s policy on levying charges under FOI regulations is that, where applicable, charges should be imposed for processing FOI requests.
However, charges may be reduced or not imposed if the Official Secretary is satisfied that an appropriate reason to do so exists. If access is approved, the Official Secretary will provide copies of documents after the Office receives payment of any charges that apply.
FOI APPLICATIONS IN 2019–20
During 2019–20, 17 FOI requests were received for documents relating to the operations of the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General. Of these:
- ten were denied under section 6A of the Act
- seven were requests that did not relate to documents in possession of the agency and therefore the FOI Act did not apply.