10 May 2021
Mr L Baird
BY EMAIL: email@example.com
In reply please quote:
FOI Request: FA 21/02/00644
Dear Mr Baird
Freedom of Information (FOI) request - Access Decision
On 4 February 2021, 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:
I request any and all communications between the department or the Emergency
Management Minister, David Littleproud, and Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and the
NBN about releasing telecommunications infrastructure data to emergency services
from November 2020 onwards.
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)
• consultation response from third party consulted in accordance with the FOI Act
6 Chan Street Belconnen ACT 2617
PO Box 25 Belconnen ACT 2616 • Telephone: 02 8861 4236 • Fax: 02 8861 4865 • www.homeaffairs.gov.au
• advice from departmental officers with responsibility for matters relating to the
documents to which you sought access
Documents in scope of request
The Department has identified six documents as falling within the scope of your request.
These documents were in the possession of the Department on 4 February 2021 when
your request was received.
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 six documents in part
An additional document that is already publically available was identified as falling in the
scope of your request and can be accessed here:
• Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and NBN are risking lives during emergencies
Reasons for Decision
Detailed reasons for my decision that the exemption provision applies to that information
are set out below.
6.1 Section 47F of the FOI Act – Personal Privacy
Section 47F of the FOI Act provides that a document is conditionally exempt if its disclosure
under the FOI Act would involve the unreasonable disclosure of personal information of
any person. ‘Personal information’ means information or an opinion about an identified
individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable, whether the information or opinion
is true or not, and whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not
(see s 4 of the FOI Act and s 6 of the Privacy Act 1988
I consider that disclosure of the information such as direct contact details contained in the
correspondence exchanged between Telstra and Minister for Agriculture, Drought and
Emergency Management and referenced as documents one and two in Schedule of
documents) marked 's47F' would disclose personal information relating to Telstra’s Chief
The FOI Act states that, when deciding whether the disclosure of the personal information
would be ‘unreasonable’, I must have regard to four factors set out in s.47F(2) of the
FOI Act. I have therefore considered each of these factors below:
• the extent to which the information is well known;
• whether the person to whom the information relates is known to be (or to have
been) associated with the matters dealt with in the document;
• the availability of the information from publicly available resources;
• any other matters that I consider relevant.
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The information relating to the third party is not well known and would only be known to a
limited group of people with a business need to know. As this information is only known to
a limited group of people, the individual concerned is not generally known to be associated
with the matters discussed in the document. This information is not available from publicly
As a result of formal consultation under section 27 of the FOI Act, Telstra advised that if
these details were disclosed, the Chief Executive Officer may be directly approached by
the general public. In addition, Telstra makes its preferred contact details available on
Telstra.com and in publicly available printed material. In the context of this request, I
consider that these factor weights against disclosure being reasonable.
I have decided that the information referred to above is conditionally exempt under section
47F 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 at paragraph 6.2 below.
6.2 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 18 February 2021, 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 decided that parts of document marked ‘s22(1)(a)(i )’ would disclose information that
could reasonably be regarded as irrelevant to and falling outside the scope of your request.
I have 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 released to you as it is relevant to your request.
6.3 The public interest – section 11A of the FOI Act
As I have decided that parts of the documents are conditional y 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:
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(a) promote the objects of this Act (including all the matters set out in sections 3
(b) inform debate on a matter of public importance
(c) promote effective oversight of public expenditure
(d) allow a person to access his or her own personal information.
Having regard to the above I am satisfied that:
Access to the documents would promote the objects of the FOI Act.
The subject matter of the documents does not seem to have a general characteristic
of public importance. The matter has a limited scope and, in my view, would be of
interest to a very narrow section of the public.
No insights into public expenditure wil be provided through examination of the
You do not require access to the documents in order to access your own personal
I have also considered the following factors that weigh against the release of the
conditionally exempt information in the documents:
The disclosure of the personal information which is conditionally exempt under
of the FOI Act could reasonably be expected to prejudice the protection
of that individual's right to privacy.
The Department is committed to complying with its obligations under the Privacy Act
which sets out standards and obligations that regulate how the Department
must handle and manage personal information. It is firmly in the public interest that
the Department uphold the rights of individuals to their own privacy and meets its
obligations under the Privacy Act. I consider that non-compliance with the
Department’s statutory obligations concerning the protection of personal information
would be contrary to the public interest and that this factor weighs strongly against
I have also had regard to section 11B(4) which sets out the factors which are irrelevant to
my decision, which are:
access to the document could result in embarrassment to the Commonwealth
Government, or cause a loss of confidence in the Commonwealth Government
access to the document could result in any person misinterpreting or
misunderstanding the document
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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)
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.
10 Contacting the FOI Section
Should you wish to discuss this decision, please do not hesitate to contact the FOI Section
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Authorised Decision Maker
Department of Home Affairs
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