I have heard nothing since from the OCO. I would like to know if officials in the OCO
have sought an extension of time from the OAIC.
Under the FOI Act, I request access to any and al correspondence sent from or received
by staff in the OAIC in relation to a request for an extension of time, on the part of the
OCO, to process my FOI request of 5 October 2022 (OCO reference FOI-2022-10114).”
I am an officer authorised under s 23(1) of the FOI Act to make decisions in relation to
I have identified 3
documents within the scope of your request. I have made a decision
• grant full access to 1 document; and
• grant access in part to 2 documents.
The documents and a schedule of documents are attached to this decision.
The FOI Act requires that all reasonable steps have been taken to locate documents
within scope of an FOI request.
The FOI Dispute Resolution line area of the OAIC conducted reasonable searches for
documents relevant to your request. Searches were conducted across the OAIC’s
various document storage systems including:
• the OAIC’s case management system – Resolve;
• the OAIC’s document holding system – Content Manager;
• OAIC’s email system; and
• general computer files.
Having consulted with the relevant line area and undertaken a review of the records
of the various search and retrieval efforts, I am satisfied that a reasonable search has
been undertaken in response to your request.
Reasons for decision
Material taken into account
In making my decision, I have had regard to the following:
• your FOI request dated 15 November 2022;
• the FOI Act, in particular section 47E(d) of the FOI Act;
• the Guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under
section 93A of the FOI Act to which regard must be had in performing a
function or exercising a power under the FOI Act (FOI Guidelines);
• submissions from the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the
Ombudsman) in relation to the release of the documents; and
• relevant case law.
Certain operations of agencies exemption – s 47E(d)
I have decided to redact material in 2 documents pursuant to s 47E(d) of the FOI Act.
Section 47E(d) of the FOI Act provides that:
A document is conditionally exempt if its disclosure under this Act would, or
could reasonably be expected to, do any of the following:
(d) have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of
the operations of an agency.
Under s 47E(d) of the FOI Act, a document is conditionally exempt if its disclosure
could reasonably be expected to have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and
efficient conduct of the operations of an agency.
In order to determine whether disclosure would, or could reasonably be expected to,
have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of the
Ombudsman, I have taken into consideration the Ombudsman’s functions and
activities. In particular, I have had regard to the Ombudsman’s functions and powers
to investigate complaints.
Staff Surname and Direct Work Email
In the IC Review decision on ‘LY’ and Commonwealth Ombudsman (Freedom of
 AICmr 68 (17 July 2017) the Commissioner accepted that ‘giving
the applicant access to the contact details would have a substantial adverse effect
on the proper and efficient conduct of the Ombudsman’s operations under the
Ombudsman Act 1976’.
The direct work email details and surnames of the Ombudsman’s staff are generally
not publicly available information. The Ombudsman’s standard practice regarding
correspondence with the public is to provide a central phone number and a general
email address as the main point of contact for the Ombudsman. This is to facilitate
the proper and efficient conduct of the Ombudsman’s operations.
Based on my review of the relevant materials and the reasoning in ‘LY’, I consider
that due to the nature of the work of the Ombudsman, if the relevant material was
disclosed, this would allow contact to be made to the individual officers, bypassing
the established contact arrangements. This would, or could reasonably be expected
to, substantially and adversely affect the efficient operations of the Ombudsman’s
Therefore, I am satisfied that the surname and direct work email address of a staff
member of the Ombudsman are conditional y exempt from disclosure under s 47E(d)
of the FOI Act.
The public interest test – section 11A(5)
An agency cannot refuse access to conditional y exempt documents unless giving
access would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest (s 11A(5)). The FOI
Guidelines explain that disclosure of conditionally exempt documents is required
unless the particular circumstances at the time of decision reveal countervailing
harm which overrides the public interest in giving access.
In the AAT case of Utopia Financial Services Pty Ltd and Australian Securities and
Investments Commission (Freedom of information)
 AATA 269, Deputy President
Forgie explained that:1
… the time at which I make my decision for s 11A(5) requires access to be given
to a conditional y exempt document “at a particular time” unless doing so is, on
balance, contrary to the public interest. Where the balance lies may vary from
time to time for it is affected not only by factors peculiar to the particular
information in the documents but by factors external to them.
In this case, I must consider whether disclosure of the documents at this time would
be contrary to the public interest.
Subsection 11B(3) of the FOI Act provides a list of public interest factors favouring
disclosure. The FOI Guidelines at paragraph [6.19] also provide a non-exhaustive list
of public interest factors favouring disclosure, as well as public interest factors
against disclosure. In my view, the relevant public interest factor in favour of
disclosure in this case is that the disclosure would promote the objects of the FOI Act
by informing the community of the government’s operations. Other factors are not
relevant in this instance.
1 Utopia Financial Services Pty Ltd and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Freedom of
 AATA 269 .
The public interest factors favouring disclosure must be balanced against any public
interest factors against disclosure. The FOI Guidelines at paragraph [6.22] contain a
non-exhaustive list of factors against disclosure.
In my view, the fol owing relevant public interest factor against disclosure in this
case is that disclosure could reasonably be expected to prejudice the management
function, and the conduct of investigations, audits or reviews by the Ombudsman.
I consider the reasonably expected prejudice to the management functions of the
Ombudsman to outweigh the factor which would support disclosure. The details in
question do not meaningfully contribute to informing the public of the operations
and reasons for decisions of the government, and the general benefit in more context
being provided regarding government operations is outweighed by the prejudice to
those operations which could reasonably be expected to result from disclosure.
Accordingly, I have found that full disclosure of these documents would not be in the
Access to edited copies with irrelevant and exempt matter deleted (section 22)
The documents within the scope of your request contain material which is exempt
from disclosure. On this basis, I have prepared the documents for release by
removing exempt material in accordance with section 22(1)(a)(i) of the FOI Act.
Please find attached a document schedule and documents released to you as part of
Please see the following page for information about your review rights and
information about the OAIC’s disclosure log.
13 December 2022
If you disagree with my decision
You have the right to apply for an internal review of my decision under Part VI of the
FOI Act. An internal review will be conducted, to the extent possible, by an officer of
the OAIC who was not involved in or consulted in the making of my decision. If you
wish to apply for an internal review, you must do so in writing within 30 days. There
is no application fee for internal review.
If you wish to apply for an internal review, please mark your application for the
attention of the FOI Coordinator and state the grounds on which you consider that
my decision should be reviewed.
Applications for internal reviews can be submitted to:
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
GPO Box 5218
SYDNEY NSW 2001
Alternatively, you can submit your application by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax
on 02 9284 9666.
You have the right to seek review of this decision by the Information Commissioner
and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
You may apply to the Information Commissioner for a review of my decision (IC
review). If you wish to apply for IC review, you must do so in writing within 60 days.
Your application must provide an address (which can be an email address or fax
number) that we can send notices to, and include a copy of this letter. A request for
IC review can be made in relation to my decision, or an internal review decision.
It is the Information Commissioner’s view that it will usually not be in the interests of
the administration of the FOI Act to conduct an IC review of a decision, or an internal
review decision, made by the agency that the Information Commissioner heads: the
OAIC. For this reason, if you make an application for IC review of my decision, and the
Information Commissioner is satisfied that in the interests of administration of the
Act it is desirable that my decision be considered by the AAT, the Information
Commissioner may decide not to undertake an IC review.
Section 57A of the FOI Act provides that, before you can apply to the AAT for review
of an FOI decision, you must first have applied for IC review.
Applications for IC review can be submitted online at:
Alternatively, you can submit your application to:
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
GPO Box 5218
SYDNEY NSW 2001
Or by email to email@example.com, or by fax on 02 9284 9666.
Accessing your information
If you would like access to the information that we hold about you, please contact
firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available on the Access our information
page on our website.
Section 11C of the FOI Act requires agencies to publish online documents released to
members of the public within 10 days of release, except if they contain personal or
business information that would be unreasonable to publish.
The documents I have decided to release to you contain personal information that
would be unreasonable to publish. As a result, the documents wil not be published
on our disclosure log.