Our reference: FOIREQ21/00284
By email: email@example.com
Freedom of Information Request – Our reference: FOIREQ21/00284
Dear Concerned Citizen
I refer to your request for access to documents made under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982
(Cth) (the FOI Act) received on 12 November 2021.
Scope of your request
In your email you seek access to clarify and access to the following:
Please provide any advice provided to the Department of Home Affairs, the Department
of Health, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, or the Digital
Transformation Agency about the privacy impacts of contact tracing mobile phone
apps including but not limited to COVIDSafe.
Notice of intention to refuse your request
I am an officer authorised under section 23(1) of the FOI Act to make decisions in
relation to FOI requests.
I am writing to tell you that I believe that the work involved in processing your
request in its current form would substantially and unreasonably divert the
resources of this agency from its other operations due to its size and broad scope (s
24AA(1)(a)(i) FOI Act). This is called a ‘practical refusal reason’ (section 24AA FOI Act).
On this basis, I intend to refuse access to the documents you requested. However,
before I make a final decision to do this, 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 at
the end of this letter.
Why I intend to refuse your request
Calculation of processing time
The Regulation and Strategy Branch conducted a search and retrieval of potentially
relevant documents within the scope of your request.
1300 363 992
T +61 2 9284 9749
GPO Box 5218
F +61 2 9284 9666
Sydney NSW 2001
ABN 85 249 230 937
Based on a preliminary count of potentially relevant document within the scope of
your request, I estimate that it will take approximately three and a half weeks
process your FOI request in its current form.
This estimate was obtained based on searches conducted by the director of the
Regulation and Strategy Branch:
• There are approximately 1266
potentially relevant documents on the OAIC’s
information management system, totalling approximately 5064 pages, that
need to be examined to determine whether each document falls within the
scope of your request.
• Together, it is estimated that it will take at least nine working days
and collate documents within the scope of your request. This estimate is
based on the average time of 3 minutes per document, which was established
in consultation with the case officer.
• In addition to the identified documents on our information management
system, there are nine relevant email accounts to be searched on the OAIC’s
email system, Outlook, and relevant emails within the scope of your request
be identified and collated.
Furthermore, this estimate does not take into account additional steps in processing
your request after the relevant line area has collated the relevant documents within
the scope of your request. They include:
• Assessing the collated documents to determine whether it will be subject to
an exemption (either in full or in part)
• If an exemption applies, redacting exempted materials and preparing an
edited PDF copy of the documents
• Conducting consultation with Commonwealth agencies and third parties
• Preparing a schedule of documents
• Preparing a decision statement
Diversion of resources
An estimate of processing time is only one of the considerations to be taken into
account when deciding whether a practical refusal reason exists. As wel as requiring
a request to substantially divert an agency’s resources, s 24AA also requires the
request to unreasonably divert an agency’s resources from its other functions before
it can be refused under s 24.
The Guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under s 93A of the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Guidelines) identify matters that may be
relevant when deciding whether processing the request will unreasonably divert an
agency’s resources from its other functions. These include:
• the staffing resources available to the agency for FOI processing
• the impact that processing a request may have on other work in the agency,
including FOI processing
• whether an applicant has cooperated in framing a request to reduce the
• whether there is a significant public interest in the documents requested
• other steps taken by an agency or minister to publish information of the kind
requested by an applicant
The OAIC is a small agency, employing approximately 140 staff. Processing a request
of this size would substantially impact on the OAIC’s operations because of the
limited number of people the OAIC has available to process FOI requests. This makes
it likely that staff will be diverted from their other work in the OAIC, including
undertaking regulatory functions in both FOI and privacy along with undertaking
activities set out in the OAIC’s 2020/2021 Corporate Plan.
Request consultation process
You now have the opportunity to provide further information so that we can identify
the documents you seek.
You may revise your request by explaining in more detail the documents you wish to
access. For example, by providing more specific information about the documents
you are interested in, the OAIC may be able to identify what documents you are
Before the end of the consultation period, you must do one of the following, in
• withdraw your request
• make a revised request
• tell us that you do not wish to revise your request.
The consultation period runs for 14 days and starts on the day after you receive this
notice. At this stage, you must respond to this notice by Friday 24 December 2021
During this period, you can ask me for help to revise your request. If you revise your
request in a way that adequately addresses the practical refusal grounds outlined
above, we will recommence processing it. (Please note that the time taken to consult
you regarding the scope of your request is not taken into account for the purposes of
the 30 day time limit for processing your request.)
In my view, you can revise your scope by narrowing down:
• the timeframe of your request
• the type of contact tracing apps e.g. COVIDSafe app only
• the agency that we have advised e.g. Department of Health only
If you do not do one of the three things listed above during the consultation period
or you do not consult me during this period, your request will be taken to have been
Request for an extension of time
I also note that the OAIC will be closed for the holidays from 25 December 2021 and
will only reopen on 4 January 2022. Given the timing of your request, I seek your
agreement, under s 15AA of the FOI Act, to extend the time to process your request
by an additional 30 days from the day which you respond to this notice
. I note
that even with the extension of time request, I still intend to process your request as
soon as possible upon my return to the office.
If you would like to revise your request or have any questions, please respond via
10 December 2021