ONE NATIONAL CIRCUIT
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1982
Parliamentary and Government Branch
By email: email@example.com
Dear Mr Unmeopa
I refer to your email, dated 3 July 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
(the FOI Act
) in the following terms:
In early 2012 the assistant secretary of Honours and Awards oversaw the production of a
"Amendment of Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal (Iraq) Declaration 2004 to extend
to specified commercial contractors”
I respectfully request a copy of that document please.
I am authorised to make this decision in accordance with arrangements approved by the
Department’s Secretary under section 23 of the FOI Act. Relevant documents
The Department has identified two documents containing material that is relevant to the scope of
your request (the requested documents
I have decided to refuse access, in full, to the requested documents, on the basis that they contain
information that is conditionally exempt under the following provisions, and its disclosure would
be contrary to the public interest:
section 47C of the FOI Act (deliberative material);
section 47E(d) of the FOI Act (proper and efficient operations of an agency); and
section 47G of the FOI Act (business information).
In making this decision, I have had regard to the following material:
the FOI request;
the documents relevant to the FOI request;
the FOI Act;
the Guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under section 93A of
the FOI Act (FOI Guidelines
Reasons for decision
Deliberative material (section 47C of the FOI Act)
Section 47C of the FOI Act provides that:
(1) A document is conditionally exempt if its disclosure under this Act would disclose
matter (deliberative matter
) in the nature of, or relating to, opinion, advice or
recommendation obtained, prepared or recorded, or consultation or deliberation that
has taken place, in the course of, or for the purposes of, the deliberative processes
involved in the functions of:
(a) an agency; or
(b) a Minister; or
(c) the Government of the Commonwealth.
Paragraph 6.59 of the FOI Guidelines provides that:
“'Deliberative process’ generally refers to the process of weighing up or evaluating
competing arguments or considerations or to thinking processes – the process of reflection,
for example, upon the wisdom and expediency of a proposal, a particular decision or a
course of action.”
The requested documents are comprised of draft material pertaining to the views, analysis and
recommendations of officers within the Department and other agencies in relation to the
Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal (HOSM). These were prepared for the deliberative
purposes of the Department.
I am satisfied that the requested documents meet the definition of “deliberative matter”.
Accordingly, I am satisfied that they are conditionally exempt under section 47C of the FOI Act. Certain operations of agencies – proper and efficient conduct (section 47E(d) of the FOI Act)
Section 47E(d) of the FOI Act provides that a document is conditionally exempt if its 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.
Release of the information contained in the requested documents would, or could reasonably be
expected to, have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient administration of the
HOSM by the Department, on the basis that such disclosure would reveal some but not all views
and matters forming part of the Department’s process, methodology and procedures for
assessment of HOSM cases.
Accordingly, I am satisfied that the requested documents are conditionally exempt under
section 47E(d) of the FOI Act.
Business information (section 47G(1) of the FOI Act)
Section 47G(1) of the FOI Act conditionally exempts documents where disclosure would disclose
information concerning a person in respect of his or her business or professional affairs, or
concerning the business, commercial or financial affairs of an organisation or undertaking
(business information), where the disclosure of the information:
would, or could reasonably be expected to, unreasonably affect the person adversely in
respect of his or her lawful business or professional affairs or that organisation or
undertaking in respect of its lawful business, commercial or financial affairs, or
could reasonably be expected to prejudice the future supply of information to the
Commonwealth or an agency for the purpose of the administration of a law of the
Commonwealth or of a Territory or the administration of matters administered by an
The requested documents contain the business information of persons and organisations. I
consider that such business information is conditionally exempt from release, as its disclosure
would, or could reasonably be expected to, involve the unreasonable disclosure of business
information of persons and organisations.
Section 11A(5) of the FOI Act provides that a conditionally exempt document must nevertheless
be disclosed to the applicant unless its disclosure would, on balance, be contrary to the public
In determining whether disclosure would be contrary to the public interest, the FOI Act requires a
decision-maker to balance the public interest factors in favour of disclosure against the factors
Section 11B(4) of the FOI Act sets out the following factors that the decision-maker must not
into account when deciding whether access to the document would be contrary to the public
a) access to the document could result in embarrassment to the Commonwealth
Government, or cause a loss in confidence in the Commonwealth Government;
b) access to the document could result in any person misinterpreting or misunderstanding
c) the author of the documents was (or is) of high seniority in the agency to which the
request for access to the document was made; or
d) access to the document could result in confusion or unnecessary debate.
I have not taken any of the above factors into account in making my decision. Factors in favour of disclosure
The particular factors in favour of disclosure in this case are, in my view that disclosure would:
a) promote the objects of the FOI Act; and
b) improve public oversight and scrutiny of government decision making.
Factors against disclosure
The FOI Act does not provide for any public interest factors weighing against disclosure that
decision makers may consider. However, in determining whether disclosure would be contrary to
the public interest, I have had regard to the FOI Guidelines. The FOI Guidelines contain a non-
exhaustive list of factors that, depending on the circumstances of the case, may be against
The main factor against disclosure in this case is that disclosure of the information would affect
the ability of the Department to provide comprehensive advice to Government on a key
Commonwealth program, namely the HOSM.
HOSM is one of the Commonwealth Government’s significant medals. Decisions regarding the
awarding of HOSM to individuals is a formal process that is prescribed under legislation. This
ensures the integrity and reputation of the HOSM eligibility and assessment process.
Disclosing the requested documents would inhibit the ability of the Department to (a) conduct
robust internal deliberations and discussions with other agencies, and (b) provide comprehensive
advice to the Government, on the basis that the level of detail contained in future internal
correspondence and briefs may be diminished, if there were a risk of such deliberations and
discussions being publicly released.
Further, parts of the requested documents contain business information of third parties. Such
information is not in the public domain and, when considered in the context of the information in
the requested documents, would, or could reasonably be expected to, adversely affect the business
or commercial interests of those third parties.
After careful consideration of all relevant factors, I have decided that, on balance, the factors
against disclosure outweigh those favouring disclosure. Accordingly, I am of the view that
disclosure of the requested documents, would be contrary to the public interest.
Information about your rights of review under the FOI Act is available at https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/reviews-and-complaints/.
You may make a complaint to the Information Commissioner about the Department’s actions in
relation to this decision. Making a complaint about the way the Department has handled an FOI
request is a separate process to seeking review of the Department’s decision. Further information
about how to make a complaint is available at https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-
Parliamentary and Government Branch
3 August 2020