22 August 2019
Ms R Jefferies
BY EMAIL: [email address]
In reply please quote:
Dear Ms Jefferies
Freedom of Information (FOI) request - Access Decision
On 17 May 2019, the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) received a request for access
to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(the FOI Act).
The purpose of this letter is to provide you with a decision on your request for access under the
Scope of request
You have requested access to the following documents:
Procedural Instruction BC-2438 - Detention and Search (section 252 Migration Act)
Procedural Instruction BC-687 - Detention and Search (section 219 Customs Act)
Procedural Instruction BC-2446 - Detention at the border (section 189 Migration Act).
Authority to make decision
I am an officer authorised under section 23 of the FOI Act to make decisions in respect of
requests to access documents or to amend or annotate records.
In reaching my decision I referred to the following:
• the terms of your request
• the documents relevant to the request
• the FOI Act
• Guidelines published by the Office of the Information Commissioner under section 93A
of the FOI Act (the FOI Guidelines)
• advice from Departmental officers with responsibility for matters relating to the
documents to which you sought access
6 Chan Street Belconnen ACT 2617
PO Box 25 Belconnen ACT 2616 • Telephone: 02 6264 1111 • Fax: 02 6225 6970 • www.homeaffairs.gov.au
Documents in scope of request
The Department has identified three documents as falling within the scope of your request.
These documents were in the possession of the Department on 17 May 2019 when your
request was received.
is a schedule which describes the relevant documents and sets out my
decision in relation to each of them.
The decision in relation to the documents in the possession of the Department which fall
within the scope of your request is as follows:
• Release three documents in part with deletions
Reasons for Decision
Detailed reasons for my decision are set out below.
6.1 Section 22 of the FOI Act – irrelevant to request
Section 22 of the FOI Act provides that if giving access to a document would disclose
information that would reasonably be regarded as irrelevant to the request, it is possible for
the Department to prepare an edited copy of the document, modified by deletions, ensuring
that the edited copy would not disclose any information that would reasonably be regarded
as irrelevant to the request.
On 17 May 2019, the Department advised you that its policy is to exclude the personal
details of officers not in the Senior Executive Service (SES), as well as the mobile and work
telephone numbers of SES staff, contained in documents that fall within scope of an FOI
I have therefore decided that parts of document marked ‘s22(1)(a)(i )’ would disclose
information that could reasonably be regarded as irrelevant to your request, and have
therefore prepared an edited copy of the document, with the irrelevant material deleted
pursuant to section 22(1)(a)(i ) of the FOI Act.
The remainder of the document has been considered for release to you as it is relevant to
6.2 Section 47E of the FOI Act – Operations of Agencies
Section 47E(d) of the FOI Act provides that documents are conditionally exempt if
disclosure would, or could reasonably be expected to, have a substantial adverse effect on
the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of an agency.
I consider that the disclosure of the parts of documents marked ‘s47E(d)’ would, or could
reasonably be expected to, have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient
conduct of the operations of the Department. I have considered this information relates to
internal sensitive processes on the operations of the Department when managing people
at the border. These are internal operational procedures and if it was to be released it
would have an adverse effect in respect to standard processes and procedures in the way
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such operations are managed. I consider this information relates to sensitive operations
conducted by the Department.
Managing the security and integrity of Australia's borders is integral to the operations of the
Department. Any prejudice to the effectiveness of the operational methods and procedures
used in undertaking that role would result in a substantial adverse effect on the operations
of the Department.
Any disclosure resulting in the prejudice of the effectiveness of the Department’s
operational methods and procedures would result in the need for this Department, and
potentially its law enforcement partners, to change those methods and/or procedures to
avoid jeopardising their future effectiveness.
Some information marked 's47E(d)' consists of operational email addresses and contact
operational numbers used by the Department. These email addresses and contact
numbers are not otherwise publicly available, and disclosure of this information could
reasonably be expected to result in potential vexatious communication and public inquiries
which these operational areas are not resourced to manage. The Department has
established channels of communication for members of the public into the Department, and
I consider there is no public interest in disclosing these operational contact details. Given
the operational focus of those business areas, such a diversion of the resources of that
business area could reasonably be expected to have a substantial adverse effect on the
proper and efficient conduct of the operations of this Department and its partner agencies.
Accordingly, I have decided that the documents are conditionally exempt under section
47E(d) of the FOI Act. Access to a conditionally exempt document must generally be given
unless it would be contrary to the public interest to do so. I have turned my mind to whether
disclosure of the information would be contrary to the public interest, and have included my
reasoning in that regard below.
6.3 The public interest – section 11A of the FOI Act
As I have decided that parts of the documents are conditionally exempt, I am now required
to consider whether access to the conditionally exempt information would be contrary to
the public interest (section 11A of the FOI Act).
A part of a document which is conditionally exempt must also meet the public interest test
in section 11A(5) before an exemption may be claimed in respect of that part.
In summary, the test is whether access to the conditionally exempt part of the document
would be, on balance, contrary to the public interest.
In applying this test, I have noted the objects of the FOI Act and the importance of the other
factors listed in section 11B(3) of the FOI Act, being whether access to the document would
do any of the following:
promote the objects of this Act (including all the matters set out in sections 3 and
inform debate on a matter of public importance;
promote effective oversight of public expenditure;
allow a person to access his or her own personal information.
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Having regard to the above:
• I am satisfied that access to the documents would promote the objects of the
• I consider that the subject matter of the documents does not seem to have the
character of public importance. The matter has a very limited scope and, in my
view, would be of interest to a very narrow section of the public.
• I consider that no insights into public expenditure wil be provided through
examination of the documents.
• I am satisfied that you do not require access to the documents in order to
access your own personal information.
I have also considered the following factors that weigh against the release of the
conditionally exempt information in the documents:
• disclosure of the parts of the documents that are conditionally exempt under
section 47E(d) of the FOI Act could reasonably be expected to prejudice law
enforcement functions and, as a result, the ability of the Department to protect
Australia's borders. I consider there to be a strong public interest in ensuring
that the ability of the Department to conduct its law enforcement functions is
not compromised or prejudiced in any way. I consider that this would be
contrary to the public interest and that this factor weighs strongly against
• Disclosure of the operational email addresses and contact numbers which are
conditionally exempt under section 47E(d) of the FOI Act would have a
substantial adverse effect on the ability of the relevant operational areas to
conduct their business as usual. The Department has established avenues in
place for members of the public to contact when they have queries, complaints
or comments. I consider that there is a strong public interest in ensuring public
feedback is filtered through these available channels so that operational areas
within the Department are able to carry out their functions in an effective
matter. I consider that this would be contrary to the public interest and that
this factor weighs strongly against disclosure of the exempt information.
I have also had regard to section 11B(4) which sets out the factors which are irrelevant to
my decision, which are:
a) access to the document could result in embarrassment to the Commonwealth
Government, or cause a loss of confidence in the Commonwealth Government;
b) access to the document could result in any person misinterpreting or
misunderstanding the document;
c) the author of the document was (or is) of high seniority in the agency to which the
request for access to the document was made;
d) access to the document could result in confusion or unnecessary debate.
I have not taken into account any of those factors in this decision.
Upon balancing all of the above relevant public interest considerations, I have concluded
that the disclosure of the conditionally exempt information in the documents would be
contrary to the public interest and it is therefore exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act.
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A copy of the FOI Act is available at https:/ www.legislation.gov.au/Series/C2004A02562.
If you are unable to access the legislation through this website, please contact our office
for a copy.
Your Review Rights
If you disagree with this decision, you have the right to apply for an internal review by the
Department of this decision. Any request for internal review must be provided to the
Department within 30 days of you being notified of the decision. Where possible please
attach reasons why you believe a review of the decision is necessary. The internal review
wil be carried out by an officer other than the original decision maker and the Department
must make a review decision within 30 days.
Applications for review should be sent to:
By email to: [email address]
By mail to:
Freedom of Information Section
Department of Home Affairs
PO Box 25
BELCONNEN ACT 2617
Review by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
You may apply directly to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) for
a review of this decision. You must apply in writing within 60 days of this notice. For further
information about review rights and how to submit a request for a review to the OAIC,
please see Fact Sheet 12 "Freedom of information – Your review rights", available online
at https:/ www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/foi-review-process.
Making a Complaint
You may complain to the Australian Information Commissioner about action taken by the
Department in relation to your request.
Your enquiries to the Australian Information Commissioner can be directed to:
Phone 1300 363 992 (local call charge)
Email [email address]
There is no particular form required to make a complaint to the Australian Information
Commissioner. The request should be in writing and should set out the grounds on which
it is considered that the action taken in relation to the request should be investigated and
identify the Department of Home Affairs as the relevant agency.
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10 Contacting the FOI Section
Should you wish to discuss this decision, please do not hesitate to contact the FOI Section
at [DIBP request email].
Position Number: 60006174
Authorised Decision Maker
Department of Home Affairs
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