$80M payment - Eastern Australia Agriculture

John Smith made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Waiting for an internal review by Department of Agriculture and Water Resources of their handling of this request.

From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Department of Agriculture and Water Resources,

In 2017 the company Eastern Australia Agriculture sold water rights to the department for approx $80M.

I wish to obtain a copy of all documents held by the department associated with this transaction. This would include contracts, financial records, transaction statements, etc.

I also wish to obtain a copy of all emails in which this transaction has been discussed by SES-level staff within the department (including deleted or archived emails). Please exclude emails that were not sent or recieved by an SES level public servant from the FOI request. To make this part of the FOI request feasible, please restrict this request to only encompass emails that contain either 'Eastern Australian Irrigation' or the acronym 'EAI' as an exact term within the email. (This should make it possible to do a simple electronic search for emails within the department's database).

Given the significant public interest in the details of this transaction, I ask that the ordinarily applicable FOI fees be waived in this instance.

The public interest in the transaction is evidenced from the following links:
(e.g. https://www.michaelwest.com.au/barnaby-j...
e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCPT2bGX... )

Yours faithfully,
John Smith

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From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Department of Agriculture and Water Resources,

Has this FOI request been recieved by the department?

Yours faithfully,

John Smith

Link to this

From: Foi
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Dear Mr Smith,

 

Acknowledgement of your Freedom of Information Request

 

I refer to your request, received by the Department of Agriculture, Water
and the Environment (department) on 2 April 2020 for access to documents
under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). I have taken your
request to be for:

 

‘In 2017 the company Eastern Australia Agriculture sold water rights to
the department for approx $80M.

 

I wish to obtain a copy of all documents held by the department associated
with this transaction. This would include contracts, financial records,
transaction statements, etc.

 

I also wish to obtain a copy of all emails in which this transaction has
been discussed by SES-level staff within the department (including deleted
or archived emails). Please exclude emails that were not sent or received
by an SES level public servant from the FOI request. To make this part of
the FOI request feasible, please restrict this request to only encompass
emails that contain either 'Eastern Australian Irrigation' or the acronym
'EAI' as an exact term within the email. (This should make it possible to
do a simple electronic search for emails within the department's
database).’

 

 

COVID-19

The department will take all reasonable efforts to process your request.
However, due to the threat of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the department is
experiencing a significant call on resources to manage Australia’s
response. This means we may not be able to process your request within the
expected timeframe, and we may require additional time to process your
request. We apologise for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience
during this time.

 

Your address

 

The FOI Act requires that you provide us with an address which we can send
notices to. You have advised your electronic address is
[1][FOI #6327 email]. We will send all notices
and correspondence to this address.

 

Please advise us as soon as possible if you wish correspondence to be sent
to another address or if your address changes. If you do not advise us of
changes to your address, correspondence and notices will continue to be
sent to the address specified above.

 

Disclosure log

 

Please note that information released under FOI Act may be published in a
disclosure log on the department's website. Section 11C of the FOI Act
requires this publication, however it is subject to certain exceptions,
including where publication of personal, business, professional or
commercial information would be unreasonable.

 

Exclusion of junior department employee details

 

The department is working towards ensuring that all employees have a
choice about whether they provide their full name and direct contact
details in response to public enquiries. Where such details are included
in the scope of a request, this may add to processing time and applicable
charges as it may be necessary to consider whether the details are exempt
under the FOI Act. On this basis, unless you tell us otherwise, we will
assume that these details are out of scope of your request and they will
be redacted under section 22 of the FOI Act.

 

Further assistance

 

If you have any questions please email [2][Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email].

 

Regards

 

 

Freedom of Information Team

Email [3][Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

[4]www.awe.gov.au

 

 

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

 

------ IMPORTANT - This email and any attachments have been issued by the
Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the
Environment. The material transmitted is for the use of the intended
recipient only and may contain confidential, legally privileged, copyright
or personal information. You should not copy, use or disclose it without
authorisation from the Department. It is your responsibility to check any
attachments for viruses and defects before opening or forwarding them. If
you are not an intended recipient, please contact the sender of this email
at once by return email and then delete both messages. Unintended
recipients must not copy, use, disclose, rely on or publish this email or
attachments. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is
not liable for any loss or damage resulting from unauthorised use or
dissemination of, or any reliance on, this email or attachments. If you
have received this e-mail as part of a valid mailing list and no longer
want to receive a message such as this one, advise the sender by return
e-mail accordingly. This notice should not be deleted or altered ------

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[FOI #6327 email]
2. mailto:[Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
3. mailto:[Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
4. http://www.awe.gov.au/

Link to this

From: Foi
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources


Attachment LEX 2697 Documents.pdf
2.0M Download View as HTML

Attachment LEX 3189 Documents.pdf
6.2M Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Smith,

 

I refer to your FOI request received by the department on 2 May 2020
(LEX-4161).

 

Publicly Available Information

Documents in relation to the below portion of your request have previously
been considered by the department as part of Senate Orders to Produce
Documents and other FOI requests. Documents in relation to these are
publicly available.

 

‘In 2017 the company Eastern Australia Agriculture sold water rights to
the department for approx $80M.

I wish to obtain a copy of all documents held by the department associated
with this transaction. This would include contracts, financial records,
transaction statements, etc’

 

You can find these attached and by visiting
[1]https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/dow...

 

Next Steps

If you are satisfied with the information provided in this link and the
attached documents, can you please confirm by Thursday 28 May 2020 that
you agree to remove this from your FOI request, and for us to process the
remainder of your FOI request, being:

 

‘I also wish to obtain a copy of all emails in which this transaction has
been discussed by SES-level staff within the department (including deleted
or archived emails). Please exclude emails that were not sent or recieved
by an SES level public servant from the FOI request. To make this part of
the FOI request feasible, please restrict this request to only encompass
emails that contain either 'Eastern Australian Irrigation' or the acronym
'EAI' as an exact term within the email. (This should make it possible to
do a simple electronic search for emails within the department's
database).’

 

Third party consultation

The relevant documents contain personal information of one or more third
parties.  To inform the decision on release of documents, the FOI Act
requires that the above third parties are consulted, and provides a
further time period for the consultation process. Subsection 15(6) of the
FOI Act extends the standard statutory 30‑day time limit for processing
requests by another 30 calendar days. Accordingly, this will give the
department 60 calendar days within which to notify you of its decision on
access to the documents.

 

 

Kind regards,

 

 

 

Freedom of Information Team

Email [2][Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

[3]www.awe.gov.au

 

 

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

 

 

------ IMPORTANT - This email and any attachments have been issued by the
Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the
Environment. The material transmitted is for the use of the intended
recipient only and may contain confidential, legally privileged, copyright
or personal information. You should not copy, use or disclose it without
authorisation from the Department. It is your responsibility to check any
attachments for viruses and defects before opening or forwarding them. If
you are not an intended recipient, please contact the sender of this email
at once by return email and then delete both messages. Unintended
recipients must not copy, use, disclose, rely on or publish this email or
attachments. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is
not liable for any loss or damage resulting from unauthorised use or
dissemination of, or any reliance on, this email or attachments. If you
have received this e-mail as part of a valid mailing list and no longer
want to receive a message such as this one, advise the sender by return
e-mail accordingly. This notice should not be deleted or altered ------

References

Visible links
1. https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/dow...
2. mailto:[Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
3. http://www.awe.gov.au/

Link to this

From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Foi,

I do not agree to the removal of this part of the FOI request:

‘I also wish to obtain a copy of all emails in which this transaction has
been discussed by SES-level staff within the department (including deleted
or archived emails). Please exclude emails that were not sent or recieved
by an SES level public servant from the FOI request. To make this part of
the FOI request feasible, please restrict this request to only encompass
emails that contain either 'Eastern Australian Irrigation' or the acronym
'EAI' as an exact term within the email. (This should make it possible to
do a simple electronic search for emails within the department's
database).’

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

Link to this

From: Foi
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Dear Mr Smith,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

Just to clarify, our query was for you to confirm:

 

o Removing this part of your request, given the documents are already
publicly available:

o ‘In 2017 the company Eastern Australia Agriculture sold water
rights to the department for approx $80M. I wish to obtain a copy
of all documents held by the department associated with this
transaction. This would include contracts, financial records,
transaction statements, etc’

 

o Keeping this part of your request. This means we will process the
below part of your request:

o ‘I also wish to obtain a copy of all emails in which this
transaction has been discussed by SES-level staff within the
department (including deleted or archived emails). Please exclude
emails that were not sent or recieved by an SES level public
servant from the FOI request. To make this part of the FOI
request feasible, please restrict this request to only encompass
emails that contain either 'Eastern Australian Irrigation' or the
acronym 'EAI' as an exact term within the email. (This should
make it possible to do a simple electronic search for emails
within the department's database).’

 

Can you please confirm whether you are happy with the above by COB 29 May
2020.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

 

Freedom of Information Team

Email [1][Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

[2]www.awe.gov.au

 

 

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

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From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Foi,

Confirmed. Please waiver the usually applicable FOI fees as this is a public interest inquiry.

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

Link to this

From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Foi,

This request is now overdue, without an agreement having been made prior to the due date; about granting the department additional time.

Under the FOIA, due to this request now being overdue; I am no longer required to pay a fee in relation to this request.

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

Link to this

From: Foi
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources


Attachment FOI LEX 4161 SEC OFFICIAL.html
7K Download

Attachment LEX 2697 Documents.pdf
2.0M Download View as HTML

Attachment LEX 3189 Documents.pdf
6.2M Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Smith,

As notified to you on 25 May 2020 in the email attached, the FOI timeframe has been extended by 30 days as the relevant documents contain personal information of one or more third parties, and the FOI Act requires that third parties are consulted. Accordingly, this will give the department 60 calendar days within which to notify you of its decision on access to the documents.

Regards,

Freedom of Information Team
Email [Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
www.awe.gov.au

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

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From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Foi,

Thank you I await the outcome.

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

Link to this

From: Foi
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources


Attachment LEX 4161 Charges notice signed.pdf
1.2M Download View as HTML

Attachment Credit card payment form.pdf
510K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Smith,

 

Please find attached correspondence from the Department of Agriculture,
Water and the Environment in relation to your freedom of information
request.

 

If you have any queries, please contact [1][Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email].

 

Kind regards,

 

Freedom of Information Team

Email [2][Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

[3]www.awe.gov.au

 

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

------ IMPORTANT - This email and any attachments have been issued by the
Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the
Environment. The material transmitted is for the use of the intended
recipient only and may contain confidential, legally privileged, copyright
or personal information. You should not copy, use or disclose it without
authorisation from the Department. It is your responsibility to check any
attachments for viruses and defects before opening or forwarding them. If
you are not an intended recipient, please contact the sender of this email
at once by return email and then delete both messages. Unintended
recipients must not copy, use, disclose, rely on or publish this email or
attachments. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is
not liable for any loss or damage resulting from unauthorised use or
dissemination of, or any reliance on, this email or attachments. If you
have received this e-mail as part of a valid mailing list and no longer
want to receive a message such as this one, advise the sender by return
e-mail accordingly. This notice should not be deleted or altered ------

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
2. mailto:[Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
3. http://www.awe.gov.au/

Link to this

From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Foi,

Given the OBVIOUS public interest in documents that are the subject of this FOI request, I ask that your department waive the FOI fee in its entirety in relation to the documents requested.

In case this public interest needs to be spelled out; this transaction has been mentioned in the news:

Here ->
https://www.afr.com/rear-window/eastern-...
Here - >
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-ne...
Here ->
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-23/w...
And here ->
https://www.michaelwest.com.au/barnaby-j...

This request could not possibly be more in the public interest. Please waive the associated fee.

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

Link to this

From: Foi
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Dear Mr Smith,

Thank you for your email. We acknowledge the charges contention received from you on 12 June 2020.

The department will respond to the contention by 13 July 2020.

Regards,

Freedom of Information Team
Email [Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
www.awe.gov.au

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

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From: Foi
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources


Attachment LEX 4161 Charges decision.pdf
810K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Smith,

 

Please find attached the decision in relation to your FOI charges
contention.

 

 

Regards,

 

Freedom of Information Team

Email [1][Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

[2]www.awe.gov.au

 

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal
professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or
confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are
prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have
received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete this email.

 

 

 

 

------ IMPORTANT - This email and any attachments have been issued by the
Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the
Environment. The material transmitted is for the use of the intended
recipient only and may contain confidential, legally privileged, copyright
or personal information. You should not copy, use or disclose it without
authorisation from the Department. It is your responsibility to check any
attachments for viruses and defects before opening or forwarding them. If
you are not an intended recipient, please contact the sender of this email
at once by return email and then delete both messages. Unintended
recipients must not copy, use, disclose, rely on or publish this email or
attachments. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is
not liable for any loss or damage resulting from unauthorised use or
dissemination of, or any reliance on, this email or attachments. If you
have received this e-mail as part of a valid mailing list and no longer
want to receive a message such as this one, advise the sender by return
e-mail accordingly. This notice should not be deleted or altered ------

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
2. http://www.awe.gov.au/

Link to this

From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Foi,

I find it baffling, frankly; that a public interest has not been recognized in this FOI request.
One struggles to recall any action of your department over the last 5 years, that has generated more public interest than this one.

I am able to demonstrate financial hardship too, in case your department would be willing to internally review this one more time.

Also, given that I have to spell the public interest out for you, here goes;

- The public interest is in knowing that the department has acted with full propriety regarding this matter. If indeed there is nothing controversial within the emails & internal departmental communications I have sought under FOI; then the public interest is served through the knowledge that our departments have been acting with integrity.

- Obviously this was not made 'merely on the basis' that the transaction pertained to a member of parliament. Why be so terse? This transaction has been particularly, and I stress; particularly, controversial. Both in the news media, and in the parliament itself.

- Sure, some of the documents have been released to the senate. But not the ones I have requested! Which may indeed be relevant.

- Whether you think the contents of the document are relevant to the public interest or not is not the issue; it is whether the documents themselves are relevant to the public interest. Clearly they are, as they have been the source of much public debate, and intrigue. If the documents I have requested are benign, that only serves to further inform public debate on the issue.

I am very disappointed with this outcome, and if it is not quickly substituted with a fee-free release; I regret I will be taking this to the OAIC.

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

Link to this

From: Foi
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Dear Mr Smith,

Unfortunately under the FOI Act there is no mechanism to complete a further Internal Review of the Internal Review decision.

As stated in the charges decision, notified to you on 10 July 2020, if you wish to have the department’s Internal Review decision further reviewed you can contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. You can also make a complaint to the Information Commissioner if you have concerns about how the department handled your request.

You can find information about requesting a review, making a complaint, and other information about FOI on the OAIC website www.oaic.gov.au or phone the OAIC on 1300 363 992.

Regards,

Freedom of Information Team
Email [Department of Agriculture and Water Resources request email]
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
www.awe.gov.au

This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

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From: John Smith

Delivered

Dear Foi,

While the act doesn't mandate that departments must undertake a further internal review; often departments do so to avoid a review at the OAIC. That is why I raised that option.

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources only: