Department Reference: FOI 3765
Mr Dean Miles firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr Miles
REQUEST CONSULTATION NOTICE UNDER SECTION 24AB
OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1982
I refer to your request of 19 April 2022 to the Department of Health (department),
seeking access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(Cth) (FOI Act) to the
Documents, minutes, discussions, meetings, emanegotiations, Memorandum of
Understanding, relating to contracts with Pfizer, Astrazeneca, Moderna, Johnson &
Johnson Covid Injections that required the Nation, placing the order prior to
delivery/perhaps prior to both parties signing contracts, regarding Soverign Assets as
Practical refusal reason
I am writing to notify you the department is unable to process your request as
currently framed due to the volume of documents captured. This letter sets out a
process for you to consider revising your request so it can be processed.
If the department is satisfied a ‘practical refusal reason’ exists in relation to an FOI
request, then after undertaking a request consultation process, it may refuse to give
access in response to the request.
I am satisfied, for the reasons set out below, 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 (see section 24AA(1)(a)(i) of
the FOI Act).
GPO Box 9848 Canberra ACT 2601 - www.health.gov.au
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Substantial diversion of resources
Following a sampling exercise, I have identified 246 documents (not including
emails) on a single database alone that may fall within the scope of your request.
This represents only a portion of documents that are likely to exist in the
department’s possession which fall within the scope of your request.
Based on the sampling exercise, I estimate 250+ hours of processing time would be
required to process your request.
The reasons for this are as follows:
• As you have not provided a date range, for the department to identify all
relevant documents it would be required to review all records captured in
various databases for the entire duration of the vaccine procurement project
(over 2 years).
• This would include identifying and reviewing all emails of staff involved in
vaccine procurement across the entire lifetime of that procurement process,
and would involve searching and retrieving emails of staff who are no longer
working with the relevant business area, or indeed the department.
• In addition, if we were to proceed with your request, the decision maker
would be required to examine each of the documents identified as being
relevant to your request and decide whether to grant, refuse or defer access to
those documents. This includes work undertaken by an FOI Officer, the action
officer supporting the decision maker, and the decision maker themselves,
and will include a departmental officer with subject matter expertise and
knowledge in the department’s vaccine procurement process and an FOI
officer with subject matter expertise in the provisions of the FOI Act. It also
includes the work required to prepare the documents for release to you, and
to compose the necessary formal decision on access.
• In addition, as your request is in relation to documents that contain business
information of affected third party organsiations, any documents found to be
in scope would require third party consultation. Therefore, the assessment of
time required to process your request includes time required to consult with
affected third parties, as required by section 27 of the FOI Act and as
recommended by the Information Commissioner’s FOI Guidelines.
In VMQD and Commissioner of Taxation (Freedom of information)  AATA 4619
December 2018)  the AAT noted:
What constitutes valid practical refusal grounds is thus agency specific and
resource dependent. Nevertheless for any agency, a burden in excess of 200
hours would almost certainly make the threshold of a rational and objective
test. As is illustrated above, burdens as (relatively) small as 74 hours have
been so characterised.
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Based on the above, I consider the work required to process your request as it is
currently framed to be a substantial diversion of resources. Unreasonable diversion of resources
I have also considered whether this substantial diversion of resources would be
unreasonable in the circumstances.
The nature of the subject matter of your request means that officers from the Vaccine
Procurement Branch (‘Branch’), including senior officers, will need to be involved in
processing the request. The Branch is responsible for managing the procurement and
supply of the vaccines to Australia in relation to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Reallocation of limited staff resources to deal specifically with your request would
compromise the department’s ability to perform this important work in response to
For these reasons, I am satisfied processing your request would be an unreasonable
diversion of resources and that a practical refusal reason exists for the purposes of
paragraph 24AA(1)(a) of the FOI Act. Request consultation process – what you need to do
Before I make a decision about whether to refuse access to the documents on the
basis of the practical refusal reason, the FOI Act requires me to undertake a request
consultation process which gives you an opportunity to revise your request (see
paragraph 24(1)(a) and section 24AB of the FOI Act).
This letter constitutes a written notice in accordance with subsection 24AB(2) of the
FOI Act giving you a 14-day period to consult with the department about the terms
of your request.
The contact person for this consultation process is the department’s FOI Coordinator
who can be contacted by telephone on (02) 6289 1666 or by email at:
Under subsection 24AB(6) of the FOI Act, you have 14 days from the date of this
notice to notify the department, in writing, that you:
a) would like to withdraw your request
b) would like to make a revised request, or
c) do not wish to revise your request.
If you do not respond in one of these ways or you do not consult the department’s
contact person within 14 days after you receive this notice, your request will be
taken to have been withdrawn under subsection 24AB(7) of the FOI Act. If you
indicate you do not wish to revise your request, I will proceed to make a decision on
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whether to refuse your request under subsection 24(1) of the FOI Act. If you need
more time to respond, please contact the department’s FOI Unit within the 14-day
period to discuss your need for an extension of time.
Under subsection 24AB(8) of the FOI Act, the time for processing your FOI request is
suspended from the day you receive this notice until the day you do one of the
things listed above.
How you could revise your request
In considering whether and how to revise your request, please consider:
• providing a limited date range for your request
• reduce the request to a particular manufacturer of vaccines
• reducing the type of the documents you are seeking access to
Relevant provisions of the FOI Act
The FOI Act, including the provisions referred to in this letter, can be accessed from
the Federal Register of Legislation website:
Vaccine Procurement Branch
19 May 2022