2016-17 Most Expensive Trip

Jackson Gothe-Snape made this Freedom of Information request to Department of the Environment and Energy

The request was refused by Department of the Environment and Energy.

From: Jackson Gothe-Snape

Delivered

Dear Department of the Environment and Energy,

This is a request under the FOI Act.

Can you please provide the travel expenses, invoices, receipts, credit card statements and reimbursements for the most expensive trip taken by a Minister or Assistant Minister in your Department's portfolio area in 2016-17.

I request that any fees arising in relation to this request be waived as the information is in the public interest, as it helps inform the public about how the government is spending public revenue.

Yours faithfully,

Jackson Gothe-Snape

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From: FOI Contact Officer
Department of the Environment and Energy

Good afternoon Mr Gothe-Snape

Thank you for your email.

For a request to be valid under the FOI Act, it must provide such information concerning the document/s sought as is reasonably necessary to enable it/them to be identified by a responsible officer who is processing the request (section 15(2)(b)). In effect, an officer should be able to look at the wording of your request, and then look at a document, and be able to readily determine whether that document falls within the scope (and is therefore subject to your request).

You request generally seeks access to documents pertaining to the "most expensive trip" taken by Hon Josh Frydenberg MP in 2016-17.

The Department faces a number of difficulties in processing the request on its current terms. They are:

• the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) has functional responsibility within Government for Ministerial travel expenses. While the Department would hold some documents relevant to Ministerial trips, it would not hold sufficient records to know what expenses were incurred in relation to all of Minister Frydenberg’s travel in the relevant period, in order to determine that a document relates to the ‘most expensive trip’ taken by the Minister.

• in order to process the request in relation to documents it does hold, an officer would be unable to determine whether a specific document related to the 'most expensive trip' without first identifying all 'events', then identifying all relevant costs relating to each trip and then tabulating them to establish which trip is considered the 'most expensive'. The request is therefore not possible to process without undertaking an overarching analysis (ie, creating new documents), as opposed to simply applying the terms of a request to each existing document under consideration.

For these reasons, the request does not meet the FOI Act requirement that it provide sufficient information to allow identification of documents that are within scope, and therefore it does not meet the criteria under section 15(2)(b) of the Act. This means it is not a valid request under the Act.

Given the above, we suggest that you withdraw your request and, if you wish to proceed to seek documents on this topic then you direct your request to IPEA ([email address]) bearing in mind the abovementioned requirements for a valid request under FOI Act.

Regards

Alan Hilvert-Bruce
Senior Legal Officer| Climate Change, Science and Corporate Legal Section |General Counsel Branch Department of the Environment
a: GPO Box 787 CANBERRA ACT 2600
t: (02) 6274 2721
e: [email address]

Note: The contents of any legal advice provided by the General Counsel Branch is subject to legal professional privilege. Do not disclose the contents of any such legal advice more broadly within the Department (i.e. outside the scope of persons to whom the legal advice is (or was) directed), via the intranet or outside the Department without first consulting the General Counsel Branch.

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From: Jackson Gothe-Snape

Delivered

Hell,

Thank you for the email.

Can you please vary my request to cover the most expensive trip based on Departmental records only.

Yours sincerely,

Jackson Gothe-Snape

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From: FOI Contact Officer
Department of the Environment and Energy

Dear Mr Gothe-Snape

Thank you for your email. Unfortunately your refined request is still invalid. It addresses the first difficulty we raised, but not the second.

Further, even if you were to refine your request so that it were valid (for example, by amending it to seek the expenses in related to specific, identified trips), the Department may hold documents that are relevant to your request, or insufficient records to be of any utility to you. As we advised below, the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority has functional responsibility within Government for Ministerial travel expenses, and would hold primary records related to the subject matter of your request.

That said, if you wish us to proceed with your request by further refining it so that it is valid, we could then process it. This may result in charges being applied.

Given the above, we suggest that you withdraw your request and, if you wish to proceed to seek documents on this topic then you direct your request to IPEA ([email address]) bearing in mind the abovementioned requirements for a valid request under FOI Act.

Regards

Alan Hilvert-Bruce
Senior Legal Officer| Climate Change, Science and Corporate Legal Section |General Counsel Branch Department of the Environment
a: GPO Box 787 CANBERRA ACT 2600
t: (02) 6274 2721
e: [email address]

Note: The contents of any legal advice provided by the General Counsel Branch is subject to legal professional privilege. Do not disclose the contents of any such legal advice more broadly within the Department (i.e. outside the scope of persons to whom the legal advice is (or was) directed), via the intranet or outside the Department without first consulting the General Counsel Branch.

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From: Jackson Gothe-Snape

Delivered

Hi Alan,

Thanks for getting back to me. If it's easier, I can do the analysis myself. Please amend the request as follows:

Please provide an itemised summary of all trips booked with your travel provider for 2016-17.

Yours sincerely,

Jackson Gothe-Snape

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From: FOI Contact Officer
Department of the Environment and Energy

Dear Mr Gothe-Snape

Thank you for your revised request. Based on our previous correspondence, the Department takes your request to be seeking "An itemised summary of all trips booked for Minister Frydenberg MP with the Department's travel provider for 2016-17".

We can confirm that this request is valid, meeting the requirements for a valid request under the FOI Act.

As advised below, the Department does not arrange or invoice for travel undertaken by the Minister. This function is undertaken by IPEA. For this reason your request will likely be transferred to IPEA or result in a section 24A decision (documents do not exist).

With this knowledge are you happy to proceed with your request, or would you prefer to withdraw it and lodge it with the IPEA directly?

Regards

Alan Hilvert-Bruce
Senior Legal Officer| Climate Change, Science and
Corporate Legal Section |General Counsel Branch
Department of the Environment
a: GPO Box 787 CANBERRA ACT 2600
t: (02) 6274 2721
e: [email address]

Note: The contents of any legal advice provided by the General Counsel Branch is subject to legal professional privilege. Do not disclose the contents of any such legal advice more broadly within the Department (i.e. outside the scope of persons to whom the legal advice is (or was) directed), via the intranet or outside the Department without first consulting the General Counsel Branch.

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From: Jackson Gothe-Snape

Delivered

Hello,

Thanks for this email.

Can you please consider my request:

An itemised summary of all trips booked by the Department's travel provider(s) for 2016-17.

Yours sincerely,

Jackson Gothe-Snape

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From: FOI Contact Officer
Department of the Environment and Energy

The Department of the Environment and Energy acknowledges receipt of your
FOI request on 22 August 2017.

 

The Department is required to process valid requests within 30 days after
the day a request was received. This 30 day processing period may be
extended under certain circumstances, for example, where the Department
decides it reasonable to consult with third parties. If the processing
period is extended, the applicant will be informed of the extension and
the reasons for it.

 

As at the date of writing, we are scoping your request. If it is a valid
request under the FOI Act the statutory deadline for providing a decision
on this request is 21 September 2017.

 

The Department makes two assumptions that affect the scope of your
request. These are set out below.

 

It is the usual practice of the Department:

•                    not to disclose the personal information of junior
officers or the personal contact details of senior officers of the State
or Federal governments (including those of the Department). The names of
senior officers will generally be released. Your request will be processed
on the assumption that you do not intend to capture these details within
its scope.

•                    not to release duplicates of any document captured
within the scope of the request. Further, where two documents fall within
the scope one differs from the other only with respect to minor editorial
changes (such as spelling or grammar corrections), only the later version
of the document  will be treated as within scope.  Your request will be
processed on the assumption that you do not intend to capture duplicates
or documents that the Department considers duplicates (as per the above
explanation) within the scope of your request.

 

Please inform us if you do not agree to your request being processed by
the Department on the above assumptions.

 

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log.

 

We will contact you using the email you provided. Please advise if you
would prefer us to use an alternative means of contact.

 

If you have any questions, please contact the FOI team on (02) 6274 2098.

 

Regards

 

FOI Contact Officer |General Counsel Branch

Department of the Environment and Energy

a: GPO Box 787 CANBERRA ACT 2600

t: (02) 6274 2098

e: [Department of the Environment and Energy request email]

 

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From: FOI Contact Officer
Department of the Environment and Energy

Dear Mr Gothe Snape

On 23 August 2017 we wrote asking if you were comfortable with the following interpretation of your scope:

"An itemised summary of all trips booked for Minister Frydenberg MP with the Department's travel provider for 2016-17"

Earlier today you advised that your revised scope should be:

"An itemised summary of all trips booked by the Department's travel provider(s) for 2016-17."

By not referring to any specific person, your revised request would cover an itemised summary of every trip, for every employee, that was booked by the Department through its travel provider in the 2016/2017 FY.

We do not think that this is what you would have intended, and seek a response from you on this. Please note that on its current terms, this would likely cover a very large number of documents, and it may be too voluminous for the Department to process.

Regards

Alan Hilvert-Bruce
Senior Legal Officer| Climate Change, Science and
Corporate Legal Section |General Counsel Branch
Department of the Environment
a: GPO Box 787 CANBERRA ACT 2600
t: (02) 6274 2721
e: [email address]

Note: The contents of any legal advice provided by the General Counsel Branch is subject to legal professional privilege. Do not disclose the contents of any such legal advice more broadly within the Department (i.e. outside the scope of persons to whom the legal advice is (or was) directed), via the intranet or outside the Department without first consulting the General Counsel Branch.

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From: FOI Contact Officer
Department of the Environment and Energy


Attachment FOI 170802 24A decision letter signed.pdf
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Attachment FOI 170802 Attachment A.doc
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Dear Mr Gothe-Snape

Please see the attached decision letter.

Regards

FOI Contact Officer |General Counsel Branch
Department of the Environment and Energy
a: GPO Box 787 CANBERRA ACT 2600
t: (02) 6274 2098 
e: [Department of the Environment and Energy request email]

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