Department Reference: FOI 3149 IR
Mr Mathew Peos
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr Peos
NOTICE OF DECISION – INTERNAL REVIEW
I refer to your request for an internal review of the access decision made by the
Department of Health (the department) in response to your request for documents
under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) (Cth). A copy of the relevant
Notice of Decision is attached.
Scope of your FOI request
The attached Notice of Decision sets out the scope of your FOI request.
The decision under review
The attached Notice of Decision sets out the department’s access decision.
Internal review decision
I am authorised under subsection 23(1) of the FOI Act to make decisions in relation to
FOI requests, including requests for internal review.
I am writing to notify you of my decision in response to your request for internal
Material taken into account
In making my decision, I had regard to a range of information, including the
the terms of your FOI request
advice from departmental officers with responsibility for matters relating to
the documents sought
the relevant provisions of the FOI Act
Freedom of Information Unit (MDP 516) GPO Box 9848 Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6289 1666 ABN: 83 605 426 759
guidelines issued by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
(OAIC) under section 93A of the FOI Act (the FOI Guidelines)
publicly available information relevant to the scope of your FOI request,
including information in the Notice of Decision provided to you
the access decision and reasons for that decision communicated by the initial
decision maker, and
decisions by the Information Commissioner (IC) not to continue or
undertake reviews of the department’s decisions in relation to the following
requests for similar types of documents:
o FOI 2027 (OAIC reference MR20/01179), and
o FOI 2029 (OAIC reference MR20/01180).
I have decided to affirm the department’s initial access decision.
Reasons and findings of fact
As previously advised, the department does not conduct scientific studies or
laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, and is not the
custodian of scientific studies establishing the existence of SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore,
the department does not have access to all documents held by the states and
territories, other Commonwealth government entities, or third party organisations
relevant to the scope of your FOI request.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled a range of international
multilingual scientific findings and information about COVID-19 in the ‘WHO
COVID-19 Database’. The database, which is updated regularly, is available here:
Decisions of the Information Commissioner
The IC has recently decided not to undertake or continue reviews of the department’s
decisions that the department does not hold any documents for, including the
following FOI requests:
FOI 2027 (OAIC reference MR20/01179), and
FOI 2029 (OAIC reference MR20/01180).
The above FOI requests sought similar documents to the current request. In both
cases, the department advised the applicants that the requests were refused under
section 24A of the FOI Act because the department held no relevant documents.
The OAIC decided not to continue or not to undertake IC reviews in relation to those
decisions under s54W(a)(i) of the FOI Act on the basis that the applications lacked
In making those decisions the IC considered information provided by the department,
the department does not collect or hold detailed information about COVID-19
cases and deaths of the nature requested by the applicant
the department does not have access to all documents created by, received by,
or held by, other Commonwealth, State and Territory entities
the department does not hold or have access to all documents held by the
various laboratories in Australia or elsewhere that might create such
the department is not the custodian of the scientific studies establishing the
existence of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19)
many of the documents establishing the existence of COVID-19 are in the
public domain, and
the management of cases and the assessment of a COVID-19 death is the
responsibility of the States and Territories.
The IC advised that continuing to review these matters would not promote the objects
of the FOI Act.
FOI review rights
If you are dissatisfied with my decision, under section 54L of the FOI Act, you may
apply to the OAIC for review of my decision by the IC.
In accordance with subsection 54S(1) of the FOI Act, an IC review application in
relation to a decision covered by subsection 54L(2) (access refusal decisions) must be
made in writing within 60 days after the day you are notified of this internal review
More information about IC review is available on the OAIC website at:
The OAIC can be contacted by:
1300 363 992
If you are dissatisfied with actions taken by the department, you may also make a
Complaint to the department
for lodging a complaint directly to the department is available on the department’s
Complaint to the IC
Information about making a complaint to the IC about action taken by the department
is available on the OAIC website:
Relevant provisions under the FOI Act
The FOI Act, including the provisions referred to in this letter, can be accessed from
the Federal Register of Legislation website:
If you require clarification of any of the matters discussed in this letter, you should
contact the department’s Freedom of Information Unit at email@example.com.
Acting First Assistant Secretary
Office of Health Protection and Response
27 January 2022
Encl. Notice of Decision