ONE NATIONAL CIRCUIT
Ms Regina Jefferies
By email: email@example.com
Dear Ms Jefferies
I refer to your email of 6 August 2021, 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:
… a copy of all minutes, notes and agendas of National Cabinet meetings from March
2020 through August 2021. This request includes any minutes, notes and agendas
created as part of the National Cabinet's two subcommittees, the Australian Health
Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the National Coordination Mechanism
We note that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) operates
through the Department of Health, and the National Coordination Mechanism (NCM)
operates through the Department of Home Affairs. Therefore, the Department is not in
possession of any ‘minutes, notes and agendas’ of the AHPPC and NCM.
Accordingly, the Department is only able to respond to the part of your request which seeks
‘minutes, notes and agendas of National Cabinet meetings from March 2020 through August
The authorised decision-maker for your request is Ms Angie McKenzie, Acting Assistant
Secretary, Legal Integrity and National Cabinet Branch. Notice of practical refusal reason
Section 24(1) of the FOI Act provides that a request to an agency 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.
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
link to page 2 link to page 2
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.
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
Document searches undertaken to date have identified 318 documents that are relevant to the
scope of your request.
Before the decision-maker can make a decision regarding any disclosure of documents, these
documents would need to be carefully examined and manually reviewed. The decision-maker
has formed the view that, in order to process your FOI request, the task of thoroughly
examining the material identified to date, firstly to ensure that the material is within the scope
of the FOI request and, secondly, to decide whether that material should be released, will be
substantially time consuming. Documents would then have to be checked, possible redactions
made, a schedule of documents prepared and a decision letter written, which would also add
to the time required to process your FOI request.
We have sampled approximately 15 per cent of the documents identified to date. The average
size of each document in that sample was 1.92 pages and the documents in the sample show
that there are at least 18 third parties who would need to be consulted. Accordingly, for the
purposes of calculating the time estimate, we have used the formula of 1.92 pages per
document, with 18 third parties to be consulted. On the basis of this formula, it is estimated
that it would take over 110 hours to process your request. The actual time would likely be
higher, as there are likely to be a wider range of third parties, requiring further consultation.
We note that section 15(6) of the FOI Act provides for the extension of the processing time by
a further 30 days for third party consultations, irrespective of the number of third parties that
would need to be consulted. Your request, as it is currently framed, captures a large volume of
documents, which in turn increases the likelihood that there will be a wide range of third
parties who would need to be consulted within the further 30 day period.
1 ‘Guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under s 93A of the Freedom of Information
2 Ibid, [3.117].
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 the reallocation
of resources within an agency. However, the Department could not reasonably divert
sufficient resources to assist in processing this request. In reaching this view, the Department
has had regard to the public interest in providing 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 FOI request by, for example:
• narrowing the date range for the documents you are seeking; and/or
• limiting your request to a particular type of document.
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. 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
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 Section on
(02) 6271 5849, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A/g Senior Adviser
2 September 2021