ONE NATIONAL CIRCUIT
Mr John Smith
By Email: [FOI #6218 email]
Dear Mr Smith
I refer to your email of 12 March 2020 in which you made a request to the Department of the
Prime Minister and Cabinet (the Department) under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(Cth) (the FOI Act) in the following relevant terms:
I wish to obtain of all documents that meet the following description:
Final reports delivered by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, to the
department since 18 September 2013. Please narrow this request to documents stored
in either a word document or PDF format.
All documents stored in a powerpoint document format, given to the department by
McKinsey; since 18 September 2013.
The decision maker for your request is Mitchell Johnson, Assistant Secretary, Finance,
Property and Security Branch. Notice and reasons for intention to refuse your request
Section 24(1) of the FOI Act provides that a request to a Minister may be refused if the
decision maker is satisfied that a practical refusal reason (as set out in section 24AA of the
FOI Act) exists in relation to the request.
I write to advise you that the decision maker considers that the work involved in processing
your request, in its current form, would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of
the Department from its other operations. This constitutes a ‘practical refusal reason’ under
section 24AA of the FOI Act. On this basis, the decision maker intends to refuse access to the
documents you have requested.
However, before the decision maker makes a final decision to refuse the request for a
practical refusal reason, you have an opportunity to revise your request. This is called a
‘request consultation process’ as set out under section 24AB of the FOI Act. You have
14 days to respond to this notice in one of the ways set out below.
Postal Address: PO Box 6500, CANBERRA ACT 2600
Telephone: +61 2 6271 5849 Fax: +61 2 6271 5776 www.pmc.gov.au ABN: 18 108 001 191
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Reasons for intention to refuse your request
In deciding if a practical refusal reason exists, an agency must have regard to the resources
required to perform the following activities specified in section 24AA(2) of the FOI Act:1
• identifying, locating or collating documents within the filing system of the agency;
• examining the documents;
• deciding whether to grant, refuse or defer access;
• consulting with other parties;
• redacting exempt material from the documents;
• making copies of documents;
• notifying an interim or final decision to the applicant.
Other matters may be relevant in deciding if a practical refusal reason exists such as the
staffing resources available to an agency for FOI processing, whether the processing can only
be undertaken by one or more specialist officers in an agency who have competing
responsibilities, the impact that processing may have on other work in an agency including
FOI processing, and whether there is a significant public interest in the documents requested.2
We have undertaken preliminary searches for documents potentially relevant to your request.
The date range of the searches was 18 September 2013 to 12 March 2020 (the date we
received your request). Having regard to where documents meeting the terms of your FOI
request would reasonably be expected to be held by the Department, we have undertaken the
• the Department’s email system for emails with an attachment received by
@pmc.gov.au accounts from @mckinsey.com accounts;
• the Department’s electronic records system.
As a result of the preliminary searches, we have identified at least 6,900 documents that
would need to be reviewed for relevance to your request.
For the documents identified to date, the process of reviewing for relevance would require, at
minimum, opening the document, reading the document, and extracting the document (if it is
relevant to your request), and closing the document. We estimated that this process would
take one officer at least 1 minute per document. We have estimated that the task of reviewing
at least 6,900 documents would take one officer at least 115 hours.
Ordinary hours of work for full-time employees in the Department are 38 hours per week.3
Having regard to the estimate of time to process the request, this means it would take one
officer at least 3 weeks to merely undertake the task of document search and retrieval.
For any documents identified as relevant to the request, there would be further work required
to process the request that may include consulting with any parties, deciding whether to grant,
refuse or defer access, redacting any exempt material, and preparing and notifying a decision.
It is not possible to estimate the time required to undertake these tasks at this time.
1 ‘Guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under s 93A of the Freedom of Information
’, Part 3 – Processing and Deciding on Requests for Access (Version 1.6, January 2018), [3.116].
2 Ibid, [3.117].
3 Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Enterprise Agreement 2017-2020
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The Department acknowledges that the processing of requests for access to documents is a
legitimate part of each agency’s functions, and that FOI requests may require reallocation of
resources within an agency. However, the Department could not reasonably divert resources
to assist in processing the request. In reaching this view, the Department has had regard to the
public interest in access to information held by the Department but considers the public
interest in access is outweighed by the competing public interest in the ability of the
Department to undertake its ordinary functions without substantial impairment, including the
processing of other FOI requests.
For the reasons given above, the decision maker considers that processing your request in its
current form would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of the Department’s resources
from its other operations.
Request consultation process
You now have an opportunity to revise your request to enable it to proceed.
Revising your request can mean narrowing the scope of the request to make it more
manageable or explaining in more detail the specific documents you wish to access. We will
assess whether any revised request has removed the practical refusal reason.
You may wish to consider revising your request in one or more of the following ways:
• narrowing the time frame for your request; and/or
• limiting your request by a particular subject-matter or contract reference. The
information published on the AusTender web site (https://www.tenders.gov.au/)4
regarding contracts that the Department has entered into with McKinsey and Company
may be able to assist you to identify a subject-matter of interest to you.
No guarantee of access
Please be aware that even if you revise your FOI request to enable it to be processed, there is
still no guarantee that documents will ultimately be released. That is a matter for the
decision maker to decide in the usual manner after examining the relevant documents. The
issue we are addressing at the moment is whether your FOI request can be processed – not
what the eventual outcome may be if it is processed. Action required
Section 24AB of the FOI Act provides that you must do one of the following, in writing,
within the next 14 days:
• revise your FOI request;
• indicate that you do not wish to revise it; or
• withdraw the FOI request.
If you do not
do one of the above within the next 14 days, your FOI request will be taken to
have been withdrawn.
4 The Australian Government’s procurement information system, AusTender, publishes all publicly available
Government Approaches to Market, Annual Procurement Plans, standing offer arrangements and contracts
awarded. The AusTender website has a search facility that enables you to search for contracts awarded by the
Australian Government agencies, including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The information
published on AusTender includes the name of the agency, the category of the contract, the contract period, and
the contract value.
If you were to revise your FOI request in a way that adequately addresses the above concerns
and makes it manageable, the Department will recommence processing it.
Calculation of 30 day period
Please note that the time taken to consult with you regarding the scope of your FOI request is
not taken into account for the purposes of calculating the 30 day period during which the
Department is required to take all reasonable steps to process your FOI request.
Should you wish to discuss your request, please contact the Department’s FOI and Privacy
Section on (02) 6271 5849, or by email to [DPMC request email], quoting reference number
FOI and Privacy Section
2 April 2020