Freedom of Information – Your Review Rights
If you disagree with the decision made by the Department of Defence under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act), you can ask for the decision to be reviewed. You may want
to seek review if you sought certain documents and were not given full access. You can ask for
external review by the Australian Information Commissioner.
Who will conduct the review?
The Information Commissioner is an
Staff of the Information Commissioner will
independent office holder who can review the
conduct the review. Only the Information
decisions of agencies under the FOI Act.
Commissioner, the FOI Commissioner or the
Privacy Commissioner can make a decision at
Do I have to pay?
the end of the review.
No. The Information Commissioner's review is
Does the Information Commissioner have to
review my matter?
How do I apply?
No. The Information Commissioner may decide
You must apply in writing and you can lodge
not to review an application that is frivolous,
your application in one of the following ways:
misconceived or lacking in substance, or if you
fail to cooperate with the process or cannot be
Post: GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2000
contacted after reasonable attempts. You
Fax: +61 2 9284 9666
cannot appeal against that decision.
In person: Level 3,
Alternatively the Information Commissioner
175 Pitt Street,
may decide that the Administrative Appeals
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tribunal (AAT) would be better placed to review
the matter, and if so, will advise you of the
An application form is available on the website
procedure for applying to the AAT. This will not
at www.oaic.gov.au. Your application should
include a copy of the notice of the decision that
you are objecting to (if one was provided), and
Can I withdraw my application?
your contact details. You should also set out
Yes. An application can be withdrawn at any
why you are objecting to the decision.
time before the Information Commissioner
makes a decision.
Can I get help in completing the application?
Yes. The Information Commissioner's staff are
What happens in the review process?
available to help you with your application if
The review process is designed to be as informal
anything is unclear.
as possible. The Information Commissioner may
contact you or any of the other parties to clarify
When do I have to apply?
matters and seek more information. The
If you are objecting to a decision to refuse
Information Commissioner may also ask the
access to documents, you must apply to the
agency to provide reasons for their decision if
Information Commissioner within 60 days of
the reasons given were inadequate.
being given notice of the decision.
Most reviews will be made on the basis of the
You can ask the Information Commissioner for
submissions and papers provided by the parties.
an extension of time to apply, and this may be
Sometimes the Information Commissioner may
granted if the Information Commissioner
decide to hold a hearing if one of the parties
considers it is reasonable in the circumstances.
applies. Parties may participate in a hearing by
telephone. If confidential matters are raised, the
hearing may be held partly or wholly in private.
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Can someone else represent me?
What decisions can the Information
Yes, including a lawyer. However, the
Information Commissioner prefers the process
After reviewing a decision, the Information
to be as informal and cost‐effective as possible
Commissioner must do one of three things:
and does not encourage legal representation.
set the decision aside and make a fresh decision,
affirm the decision, or vary the decision.
Will the Information Commissioner look at the
The Information Commissioner will give reasons
searches conducted to identify documents
for the decision.
captured by the request?
Yes. The Information Commissioner's review is a
Will the decision be made public?
fresh decision, so all the relevant material must
Yes. The Information Commissioner will publish
be examined, including documents that the
decisions on the website. Exempt material (that
agency has declined to release. Developments
is, material that is not released) will not be
that have occurred since the original decision
included. Nor will the name of the review
may also be considered.
applicant, unless that person requests otherwise
or there is a special reason to publish it.
What powers does the Information
What can I do if I disagree with the Information
While the review process is designed to be
Commissioner's review decision?
informal, the Information Commissioner has
You can appeal to the Administrative Appeals
formal powers to require anyone to produce
Tribunal (AAT). The Information Commissioner
information or documents, to compel anyone to
will not be a party to those proceedings. The fee
attend to answer questions and to take an oath
for lodging an AAT application is $884 (at 1 July
or affirmation that their answers will be true.
2016), although there are exemptions for health
An agency can also be ordered to undertake
care and pension concession card holders and
further searches for documents.
the AAT can waive the fee on financial hardship
Making a complaint
You may make a complaint to the Information Commissioner about actions taken by Defence in relation
to your application. The complaint needs to be in writing and lodged in one of the ways indicated above
under the heading “How do I apply”.