All documents marked "potentially FOI exempt" on DHS operational website

Justin Warren made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Human Services

The request was refused by Department of Human Services.

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

If possible, please treat this as an informal or administrative request. Otherwise, please treat this as a formal request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

I request a copy of all documents on the operational.humanservices.gov.au website currently marked "potentially FOI exempt" with boilerplate text of the following form:

### BEGIN ###
The guideline you have requested is potentially FOI exempt.

You have a right to apply for the document through FOI legislation.

You can request a copy from the department's Information Publication Scheme by:

sending an email to [email address]
or writing to us at:
Freedom of Information
FOI and Information Release Branch
PO Box 7820
Canberra Mail Centre ACT 2610
### END ###

I estimate there to be 10,895 such documents, though the Funnelback search service on the site indicates there to be only 3,075 search results for "potentially foi exempt".

I request copies to be provided in electronic form. Alternately, you may choose to publish the document in place on the operational website, where it should have been published in the first place.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Human Services,

Please acknowledge receipt of my FOI request.

The original request is archived here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/a...

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


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Attachment LEX 35004 Consultation and Acknowledgement Final.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your Freedom of
Information request.

Regards

 

Alice

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

 

[1]cid:image001.png@01D27D3A.D9CCAB90

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Alice,

Firstly, I note that you agree with me that my request is for operational documents:
“There are over 130 branches alone in the department and your request, for over 3,000 documents containing operational information, would likely cover a substantial portion of these business areas.”

I note that the department’s Information Publication Scheme (https://www.humanservices.gov.au/organis... specifically mentions the department’s obligations under s 8(2)(j) of the FOI Act, and provides a link to where it publishes operational information (http://operational.humanservices.gov.au/) which is the same operational information I have requested.

I further note that the department’s IPS Agency Plan (https://www.humanservices.gov.au/organis... says, in part:

"To ensure that our IPS entry is (and individual IPS documents are) easily discoverable, understandable and machine readable, we have:
- wherever possible, provided online content in a format that can be searched, copied and transformed
- updated the sitemap on our website, to help individuals identify the location of information published under ss 8(2) and 8(4)"

This is the same sitemap that I used to locate the documents I have request, all of which the department appears to be claiming some form of FOI exemption for, but without providing any details of what that exemption is.

I suggest to you that the onus is on the department to explain why it has not already published this operational information.

The FOI Guidelines state at [13.72] that: “Where information is not published because an exception applies, agencies may record this in an IPS information register, including the title of the document to which an exception applies and the reason it was not published under the IPS (see [13.20] above on information registers). Capturing this information may help an agency if it needs to respond to any complaints to the Information Commissioner about its IPS compliance.”

Does the department maintain an IPS information register containing this information? This would be handy as the department could then readily determine how many documents have already been assessed as exempt and I could then potentially exclude them from the scope of my request.

It appears this IPS Agency Plan was written in approximately 2013 and “[t]he plan will be reviewed and updated again in 2015” though the page in question was apparently last updated on 27 August 2017.

The FOI Guidelines state at [13.24] that “Agencies are required to complete a review of their IPS compliance by 1 May 2016, in conjunction with the Information Commissioner (ss 8F(a) and 9(1)).” Can you confirm that this was done?

In calculating the effort estimate, I note that in Cash World Gold Buyers Pty Ltd and Australian Taxation Office (Freedom of information) [2017] AICmr 20 (10 March 2017) Australian Information Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, noted at [30] that:
“Generally, I consider that a representative sample consisting of between 10-15% of the documents is an appropriate sample size to estimate the processing time of a request.”

You have boldly chosen to sample less than 1% of the documents, so I question the accuracy of your effort estimate.

Further, I question your intention to refuse my request under s 24AA(1)(a)(i) of the FOI Act because publishing information under the Information Publication Scheme is surely part of the department’s ordinary operations. How is it that you claim that my request for information that is supposed to be published, and which the department itself has said that it will publish, somehow represents an unreasonable diversion of resources of the agency?

I note that the FOI Guidelines state at [13.7] that “Agencies must comply with the IPS requirements from 1 May 2011.” Perhaps you could explain why the department has not managed to process and publish all of these operational documents in the almost 7 years since that deadline, given its considerable financial and other resources?

In light of the above information I alter the scope of my request as follows:
- I include any and all IPS registers that contain the title of operational documents contained within the scope of my original request to which an exception applies and the reason(s) it was not published under the IPS, as per [13.72] of the FOI Guidelines.
- I exclude any document within the scope of my original request that is listed in any of these to-be-supplied IPS registers of documents as a document to which an exception applies.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

Dear Mr Warren

 

Thank you for your email.

 

I am writing to confirm that your revised scope is as follows:

 

Any and all IPS registers that contain the title of operational documents
contained within the scope of my original request [all documents on the
operational.humanservices.gov.au website currently marked ‘potentially FOI
exempt’] to which an exception applies and the reason(s) it was not
published under the IPS, as per [13.72] of the FOI Guidelines.

 

We previously advised you that the 30 day processing time will not include
the consultation process under section 24AB of the FOI Act. Accordingly,
you can now expect a decision from us by 22 March 2018. The processing
time may be extended if we need to consult third parties or for other
reasons. We will advise you if this happens.

 

Regards

 

Alice

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Alice,

Unfortunately this is not an accurate interpretation of my scope revision. I will restate it to clarify:

1. Any and all IPS registers that contain the title of operational documents contained within the scope of my original request [all documents on the operational.humanservices.gov.au website currently marked ‘potentially FOI exempt’] to which an exception applies and the reason(s) it was not published under the IPS, as per [13.72] of the FOI Guidelines.
2. All documents contained within the scope of my original request [all documents on the operational.humanservices.gov.au website currently marked ‘potentially FOI exempt’] whose title is NOT contained within the IPS registers of point 1.

The underlying assumption here is that the documents in point 2 do not exist in IPS registers because no exception applies to them and they should therefore be published under the IPS.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services

Dear Mr Warren

Thank you for providing clarification on your revised scope. A decision will be notified to you by 22 March 2018.

Regards

Alice
FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division
Department of Human Services

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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM
Department of Human Services


Attachment image001.png
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Attachment LEX 35004 Decision Final.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren

Please find attached the decision on your request for access to
information held by the Department of Human Services, under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982.

 

Regards

 

Alice

FOI and Litigation Branch | Legal Services Division

Department of Human Services

 

[1]cid:image001.png@01D27D3A.D9CCAB90

 

 

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