Australia and Open Government Partnership

Peter Timmins made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The request was successful.

From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

This is an application for the most recent document that canvasses issues concerning the Open Government Partnership in particular considerations for and against Australian membership.

Please treat this as a request for access under the Administrative Access Scheme that the Australian Information Commissioner suggests each agency should establish.

if it is not possible to deal with the application in that way please treat it as a formal application under the Freedom of Information Act for any relevant document or documents created or that came into the possession of the department since 1 October 2012.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Timmins

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

FOI Ref: 1211-F455

File No: 12/16692

 

 

Dear Mr Timmins

 

Re: Freedom of Information (FOI) Request

 

Thank you for your email dated 18 November 2012 in which you seek access
to documents relating to the following:

 

”This is an application for the most recent document that canvasses issues
concerning the Open Government Partnership in particular considerations
for and against Australian membership.

 

As there are no Administrative Access arrangements in place for handling
requests of this nature your application will be processed under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act).

 

Searches are now being undertaken in relevant areas of the Department for
documents relevant to your request.  I will contact you again once the
searches have been completed.

 

Scope of request

If it emerges that the scope of your request is unclear or is too large
for processing, the Department will contact you to discuss re-scoping the
request.

 

Timing of release

As the subject matter of your request will require DFAT to upload any
documents released to you to the Department’s FOI Disclosure Log, I take
this opportunity to advise you that the Department’s policy is to upload
released documents within 24 hours of your receipt of the documents. 

 

Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to
contact the undersigned, the FOI case officer, on (02) 6261 3461, by email
to [DFAT request email], or by letter to the Department’s mailing address.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Stephanie Allan

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section

Domestic Legal Branch

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Ph: 6261 3461  Fax: 6261 2144

 

 

 

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

FOI Ref: 1211-F455

File No: 12/16692

 

 

Dear Mr Timmins

 

I refer to your current request under the FOI Act for access to documents
relating to the following:

 

“Any relevant document or documents that canvass issues concerning the
Open Government Partnership created or that came into the possession of
the department since 1 October 2012.”

 

Searches are still being undertaken in relation to your FOI request.  The
United States Branch in Canberra has identified a further search will need
to take place with the overseas Post in Washington.

 

In relation to the statutory timeframe left on this matter, the Department
will have 14 calendar days left to complete this request. 

 

Taking these additional searches into account, would you be in a position
to consent to an extension in time under the provisions of s15AA of the
FOI Act by a further period of 30 days? 

 

This would allow sufficient time to receive the remaining search results
from the Branches involved in Canberra along with the results of searches
(and any relevant documents) from the overseas Post in Washington. 
Further, the Department would also be able to complete a decision on
release of documents. 

 

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Please note a copy of this email has been sent to Mr David Yardley,
Director, Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section, Domestic Legal
Branch for his information.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Stephanie Allan

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section

Domestic Legal Branch

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Ph: 6261 3461  Fax: 6261 2144

 

 

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear DFAT,
Don't worry about a search in the Embassy in Washington.
I'm interested in what the policy types in Canberra have in documents received or created since 1 October. Just so you know I wrote to the Minister (via his aph email) on 20 October suggesting he ask the Department for a briefing on the OGP. I agree to extend the deadline by 7 days.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Timmins

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Dear Mr Timmins

 

I note the statutory time period for this request will expire on 26
December 2012.  

 

Given the impending loss of a significant number of working days due to
the Christmas/New Year shut down, the Department will need to request an
extension in time under the provisions of section 15AB from the Office of
the Australian Information Commissioner to complete the request.  The
Department will be requesting a further period of 21 days to complete the
remaining steps left in the process. 

 

The Department's decision-maker has identified the need for external
consultation to be undertaken with an external agency on the release of
documents before their decision can be finalised.  The external
consultation is currently underway. 

 

What has been done to date

-              All documents identified, collated, external consultation
with an external agency is currently underway.

-              The decision-maker has examined the documents in detail and
determined where external consultation was required.

-              The decision-maker has made preliminary assessment of the
documents and continues to do so alongside the consultation which is
underway.

-              The request is being processed in the spirit of the FOI
reform legislation to provide the best quality decision and as much access
as possible consistent with the FOI Act and FOI Guidelines.

-              There is no option for a staged release of the material at
this time.

 

The decision-maker is not in a position to finalise their decision by 26
December 2012, due in part to the need for external consultation to be
concluded with an external agency.  As foreshadowed above the impending
loss of a significant number of working days over the Christmas/New Year
shut down will mean the external consultation will not be finalised by the
due date.  In order for this request to be completed DFAT will need to
apply for an additional extension period of 21 days.  Further time will
allow the decision-maker to complete the external consultation in a timely
and orderly manner and reach a quality decision on release of documents.

 

Should you require any further information in relation to your FOI
request, please contact our office.

 

Please note a copy of this email has been sent to David Yardley, Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section for his information.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section

Domestic Legal Branch

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

 

 

 

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear DFAT,
There I was hoping this would be straight-forward but alas....

As you know there is nothing in the act that requires pre-release consultation with another agency or allows additional time for this to happen. However it may of course be sensible to do so. If you are consulting AG's you will find, yes I asked them for a document. They released a briefing note regarding letters to be sent to the PM and your minister last May. They didn't ask for additional time and I don't know if they consulted with you about this , but they released the brief including the AG's notation "let's propose we join..." with no redactions. It is up on this website.

In the spirit of the season take a little more time.

I look forward to your determination.

In the meantime I hope those in the policy area are following the discussion about the OGP and why it would make sense for Australia to join.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Timmins

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From: Elizabeth Zatschler

Our reference: RQ12/02365

 

 

 

Dear Mr Timmins

Extension of time request under s15AB

On 21 December 2012 the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade requested
further time to make a decision on your FOI request of 19 November 2012.

This request was on the basis that the processing period is insufficient
to deal adequately with your request, because it is complex and
voluminous.

The Information Commissioner has decided to grant the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade an extension of time of 21 days for this
request, to 16 January 2012. This decision has been made under s15AB(2) of
the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (the Act).

Review rights

If you are unhappy with the way we have handled this matter, you may
complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. This service is free, and you can
contact the office on 1300 362 072 or visit [1]www.ombudsman.gov.au.

If you would like to discuss this matter you may contact me on (02) 6239
9137 or via email [email address].

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Elizabeth Zatschler  | Assistant Merit Review and Investigations Officer

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

4 National Circuit, BARTON ACT 2600

GPO Box 2999 CANBERRA ACT 2601 |www.oaic.gov.au

Phone:  +61 2 6239 9121 

Fax: +61 2 6239 9187

Email: [2][email address]

 

Protecting information rights – advancing information policy

 

 

P Please consider the environment before printing this email

 

 

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/
2. mailto:[email address]

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear Elizabeth Zatschler, Thank you. I'm looking forward to the determination particularly to see how this application was regarded as complex and voluminous. It started off as a request for Administrative Access to one document. You will have noted DFAT says it has no such scheme. have a nice break.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Timmins

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From: Elizabeth Zatschler


Attachment Extension of time request under s15AB SEC UNCLASSIFIED.html
10K Download


Dear Mr Timmins,

Thank you for your query on the s15AB extension of time granted to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in relation to your FOI request.

Our consideration of these applications is made on the information provided to our office from the agency. I have attached a copy of our email to DFAT which includes reasons they advised us makes your request complex or voluminous.

I trust this answers your query.

Regards,

Elizabeth Zatschler | Assistant Merit Review and Investigations Officer
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
4 National Circuit, BARTON ACT 2600
GPO Box 2999 CANBERRA ACT 2601 |www.oaic.gov.au
Phone:  +61 2 6239 9121 
Fax: +61 2 6239 9187
Email: [email address]

Protecting information rights – advancing information policy

 Please consider the environment before printing this email

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear Elizabeth Zatschler,
Thanks-but far from convincing on the voluminous and complex front. I'd earlier told DFAT not to worry about a search in Washington. I look forward to seeing the outcome.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Timmins

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

FOI Ref: 1211-F455

File No: 12/16692

 

 

Dear Mr Timmins

 

I refer to your current request under the FOI Act for access to documents
relating to the following:

 

"Any relevant document or documents that canvass issues concerning the
Open Government Partnership created or that came into the possession of
the department since 1 October 2012."

 

As outlined in my email dated 18 December 2012, the Department lost a
significant number of working days over the Christmas/New Year stand down
period.  Taking into account the extended time frame under the provisions
of s.15AB of the FOI Act, the Department has until 16 January 2013 to
complete your FOI request.

 

Given the delay in receiving a response from an external agency who was
consulted on the release of documents, along with the absence of the
Department’s decision-maker due to extended leave the Department will not
be in a position to finalise this matter by 16 January 2013.

 

Although DFAT is endeavouring to process the request as soon as possible,
DFAT is not able to meet the timelines imposed under the FOI Act, and
therefore will be requesting a further extension of time from the Office
of the Australian Information Commissioner for a further period of 14
days. 

 

What has been done to date:

-        All documents identified, collated, consultation with the
external agency has recently been completed.

-        The decision-maker has been provided with the documents along
with the external agencies comments for their consideration with a view to
finalising the decision on release of documents.

-        The request is being processed in the spirit of the FOI reform
legislation to provide the best quality decision and as much access as
possible consistent with the FOI Act and FOI Guidelines.

-        There is no option for a staged release of the material at this
time.

 

The decision-maker is not in a position to finalise their decision by 16
January, due in part to the absence of the Department’s senior
decision-maker who has only recently returned to the office. As
foreshadowed above, the loss of a significant number of working days over
the Christmas/New Year period meant this request could not be progressed
further. In order for the FOI request to be completed DFAT will need to
apply for a further extension of time of up to 14 days. The further time
being requested will allow for the decision-maker consider the comments
provided by the external agency and reach a quality decision on release of
documents covered under this FOI request.

 

Should you require any further information in relation to your FOI
request, please contact our office.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section

Domestic Legal Branch

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

 

 

 

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From: Enquiries

Our reference: RQ13/00079

 

 

 

Dear Mr Timmins

Extension of time request under s15AB

On 15 January 2013 the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade requested
further time to make a decision on your FOI request of 19 November 2012.

This request was on the basis that the processing period is insufficient
to deal adequately with your request, because it is complex and
voluminous.

The Information Commissioner has decided to grant the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade an extension of time of 14 days for this
request, to 30 January 2013. This decision has been made under s15AB(2) of
the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (the Act).

Review rights

If you are unhappy with the way we have handled this matter, you may
complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. This service is free, and you can
contact the office on 1300 362 072 or visit [1]www.ombudsman.gov.au.

If you would like to discuss this matter you may contact our enquiries
line on 1800 363 992 or via email [email address].

 

Yours sincerely

 

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

GPO Box 2999 CANBERRA ACT 2601 |www.oaic.gov.au

Fax: +61 2 6239 9187

Email: [2][email address]

 

Protecting information rights – advancing information policy

 

P Please consider the environment before printing this email

 

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/
2. mailto:[email address]

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear DFAT,
It's getting more complex and voluminous than I ever imagined. Looking forward to that quality decision, to use your words.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Timmins

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From: Scott, John
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment Access decision letter.pdf
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Attachment FOI request Timmins document.pdf
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Dear Mr Timmins
 
I refer to your FOI request dated 18 November 2012.
Please find attached the Department's access decision letter in respect of
this request. It is self-explanatory.
Regards
 
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
 
 

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Peter Timmins left an annotation ()

The system describes this information request as "successful." Technically correct but hardly the full picture.

After two months, two applications to the OAIC for extension of time because the application was "voluminous and complex," claims that other agencies had to be consulted, DFAT found one document that mentions the Open Government Partnership.

The OAIC was sold a pup on the extension of time.How much of this is going on?.

The document released makes a passing reference only to the OGP in summarising a publicly available report about transparency in our foreign aid program.

That in itself is instructive - not a memo, note, brief or report giving any consideration to issues concerning the OGP and the arguments for and against Australia joining, during October and November at least.

All you can say is that on the basis that the information referred to-that an international NGO recommends Australia join the OGP-is in the public domain, DFAT lived up to its promise mentioned several times in the correspondence:it made a "quality decision" to release it.

"Successful" however doesn't quite capture it.

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Henare Degan left an annotation ()

This request was mentioned in this Canberra Times article, "The war on freedom":

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national...

Also: http://foi-privacy.blogspot.com/2013/03/...

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade only: