This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Documents Relating to U.S. Department of Defense Research into Neurotoxicity and/or Adverse Neuropsychiatric Effects of the Anti-malarial Drug Mefloquine'.

Freedom of Information 
PO Box 7910 
Tel: 02 626 62200 
Fax: 02 626 62112 
Our reference:  FOI 389/15/16 
Mr Stuart McCarthy 
By email:  
Dear Mr McCarthy 
I refer to your email, dated 17 June 2016 in which you requested access, under the 
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), to: 
“…documents held by the Australian Department of Defence (Aus DoD) relating to U.S. 
Department of Defense (U.S. DoD) research into the neurotoxicity and/or 
neuropsychiatric adverse effects of mefloquine, dating from 1 January 2013 to the 
present, including: 
a. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, briefings, presentations, or summaries relating to 
proposals, conduct, findings, outcomes or recommendations of the above research, 
including correspondence between U.S. DoD and Aus DoD officials, or internal Aus 
DoD correspondence. 
b. Documents relating to the involvement of Aus DoD officials in the above research, as 
sponsors, researchers, reviewers or subjects. 
c. Documents relating to the attendance of Aus DoD officials at meetings, visits or 
conferences on the subject of mefloquine use in the military, including notes, briefings or 
similar correspondence on the observations, findings or outcomes of those activities. 
d. Documents relating to the implications of the above research for the use of mefloquine 
in the ADF, or possible adverse health effects on ADF personnel.”. 

Liability to pay charges 
By letter, dated 1 July 2016, you were advised of the decision, in accordance with section 
29 of the FOI Act, that you were liable to pay a charge for the processing of your request and for 
giving access to the requested documents. 
The abovementioned letter also outlined that Defence excludes personal email addresses, 
signatures, PMKeys numbers and mobile telephone numbers, contained in documents that fall 
within the scope of a FOI request unless you specifically request such details and that Defence 
also excludes duplicates of documents. 
By email, dated 2 July 2016, you sought a review of the charges associated with your 
request on public interest grounds.   
Defending Australia and its National Interests 

Decision maker  
By arrangements made by Defence under section 23 of the FOI Act, I am authorised to 
decide on your request for waiver of the processing charges. 
Material taken into account 
In coming to my decision, I had regard to: 
a.  your submission in support of remission of the charges; 
b.  the relevant provisions of the FOI Act; 
c.  the relevant provisions of the FOI (Charge) Regulations; and 
d.  the Guidelines published by the Office of the Australian Information 
Relevant legislation – subsection 29(5) of the FOI Act  
Subsection 29(5) of the FOI Act provides as follows: 
Without limiting the matters the agency or Minister may take into account in determining 
whether or not to reduce or not to impose the charges, the agency or Minister must take 
into account: 

a.  whether the payment of the charge, or part of it, would cause financial 
hardship to the applicant, or to a person on whose behalf the applicant was 
made; and  

b.  whether the giving of access to the document in question is in the general 
public interest or in the interest of a substantial section of the public. 
Consideration of financial hardship 
As noted above, I am required to take into account whether access to the requested 
documents would cause you any financial hardship. 
The Guidelines provide the following advice:  
Whether payment of a charge would cause financial hardship to an applicant is primarily 
concerned with the applicant's financial circumstances and the amount of the estimated 
charges. Financial hardship means more than an applicant having to meet a charge from 
his or her own resources. 

An applicant relying on this ground could ordinarily be expected to provide some 
evidence of financial hardship. For example, the applicant may rely upon (and provide 
evidence of) receipt of a pension or income support payment; or provide evidence of 
income, debts or assets. 

When considering whether to waive a debt due to the Commonwealth, the Department of 
Finance and Deregulation provides the following definition of financial hardship (in the context 
of deciding whether to waive a debt):  

Financial hardship exists when payment of the debt would leave you unable to provide 
food, accommodation, clothing, medical treatment, education or other necessities for 
yourself or your family, or other people for whom you are responsible.1
You did not provide any arguments or evidence relevant to a claim of financial hardship, 
accordingly, I am satisfied that payment of processing charges would not cause you any financial 
Consideration of public interest  
In relation to 'public interestconsiderations, Part 4 - Charges for providing access, 
paragraphs 4.51- 4.53 of the Guidelines state as follows: 
4.51 The Act requires an agency or minister to consider 'whether the giving of access to 
the document in question is in the general public interest or in the interest of substantial 
section of the public' (s29(5)(b)). The issue is not whether it is in the public interest to 
waive or reduce a charge, nor whether it is in the public interest for a particular 
applicant to be granted access to a document... 

4.52 ... The FOI applicant may benefit from disclosure, but for the purposes of s29(5)(b) 
there should also be benefit flowing more generally to the public or a substantial section 
of the public. This will ordinarily require consideration both of the content of the 
documents and the context of their release -for example, whether the documents relate to 
a matter of public debate or decision by government. 

Part 4 - Charges for providing access, paragraph 4.56 of the Guidelines also states as 
4.56 ... an agency or minister may also consider whether the range or volume of 
documents requested by an applicant could be considered reasonably necessary for the 
purpose of contributing to public discussion...  

Your email seeking waiver of the charges provided five points for my consideration; 
however you did not address how you consider that the release of the requested documents 
would be of benefit to the greater public.  I note that points a. – c. merely provide statements 
about Mefloquine, to which I am unable to respond.  
In your point d. you state that access to the requested documents would assist affected 
individuals to seek medical assistance.  Again, I do not consider that you have addressed how the 
release of the requested documents would be in the public interest of a substantial section of the 
In regards to your point e. I note your comment that Defence has not yet contacted 
affected individuals, contrary to a recent Senate Inquiry.  I sought advice from Joint Health 
Command with regard to this point, and was advised that Defence had considered this 
recommendation, however on balance decided that it was likely to cause more harm as it is likely 
to cause anxiety to those that are well.   

I also note that Defence has made a lot of information publicly available on the Defence 
website.  Further, individuals who do have any queries and or concerns can contact Defence via 
a dedicated email address.  In my opinion, Defence has addressed the public interest by making 
information and a contact address readily available for individuals to seek advice as they require.   
The Guidelines, at paragraph 4.58, provide a non-exhaustive list of circumstances where 
it may be appropriate to reduce or waive a charge on public interest grounds.  I do not consider 
that you have adequately addressed any of those points, nor provided any other arguments that 
would convince me of your public interest claims.     
Charges decision  
Notwithstanding the above, I am of the view that the estimated charges amount can be 
adjusted.  I have now had an opportunity to review the documents and, as an experienced FOI 
practitioner, to consider the time and effort required to process your request.  Accordingly, I 
have decided to reduce the charges estimate by 50% to $83.50. 
Way forward  
If you agree with my decision, and wish to proceed, a deposit of $20.00 is required. The 
deposit is not refundable except in some limited circumstances (for example, if Defence fails to 
make a decision on your request within the statutory time limit), or may be refundable in part if 
the final charge is less than the deposit paid. 
Please complete the authorisation form at Enclosure 1 and return it to the FOI Directorate 
by 31 August 2016. Upon receipt of the form an invoice will be generated, which may take up to 
five business days. Details about payment of the invoice are on the form. Our office will not 
process your request until a receipt is received in our office notifying that the deposit amount has 
been paid. If you do not respond to this letter within 30 days of receiving it (or by a later 
deadline if we give you an extension), we will take it that you have withdrawn your request. 
Alternatively, if you disagree with my decision, you are entitled to apply for internal 
review of my decision to impose the charges. Such an application should be made within 30 days 
of receipt of this letter or such further time as the Department may allow. The fact sheet 
“Freedom of Information – Your review Rights” is at Enclosure 2. 
Your Review Rights 
Internal Review 
Under the provisions of section 54 of the FOI Act, you are entitled to request a review of 
this decision. You must request a review, in writing, within 30 days of the date of this letter, or 
the date you receive the documents.  Requests can be sent to: 
Fax:   02 626 62112 
Post:  Freedom of Information Directorate - Reviews 
Department of Defence 
PO Box 7910 

Australian Information Commissioner 
Under the provisions of section 54 of the FOI Act, you are also entitled to request an 
external review of this decision by the Australian Information Commissioner. You have 60 days 
to lodge such a request, using one of the contact methods below:  
Phone: 1300 363 992 
Fax:   02 9284 9666 
Post:  GPO Box 2999 
Canberra ACT 2601 
You may complain to Defence, the Information Commissioner or the Commonwealth 
Ombudsman about an action taken by Defence in the exercise of its power or the performance of 
its functions under the FOI Act.  There is no fee for making a complaint. Should you wish to 
complain to the Department of Defence, your complaint can be addressed to Mr Tony Corcoran 
using the contact details below: 
Post:   Tony Corcoran 
Assistant Secretary Information Management and Access Branch 
PO Box 7911 
Contact details for the Commonwealth Ombudsman are below: 
Phone: 1300 362 072) 
Fax:   02 6276 0123 
Post:  Commonwealth Ombudsman 
GPO Box 442 
Contact details for the Information Commissioner are above. 
Further advice 
Please contact me if you have any queries about your request. 
Yours sincerely 
Digitally signed by 
 Date: 2016.08.01 16:20:55 
Theresa Stinson 
Assistant Director 
Freedom of Information 
1 August 2016 
Payment Authorisation form - Deposit  

Freedom of Information 
PO Box 7910 
Tel: 02 626 62200 
Fax: 02 626 62112 
Service or PMKEYS ID (if applicable) 

FOI 389/15/16 
By signing this form you are agreeing to pay the charges notified to you by the Freedom of 
Information Directorate. The deposit is not refundable except in some limited circumstances 
(for example, if Defence fails to make a decision on your request within the statutory time 
limit), or may be refundable in part if the final charge is less than the deposit paid: 
Once our office receives this form, the Department of Defence will generate an invoice in 
order for you to make payment of the agreed charges via one of the payment options made 
Our office will not proceed to process your request until a receipt has been received in our 
office notifying that the deposit amount has been paid. 
Please sign below and return this form by one of the following: 
via email to  
via fax 02 6266 2112 
by post to the address noted above. 
Signature: ____________________________________________________  
Defending Australia and its National Interests