Australian support for Civil Society

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 under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the document or documents that set out relevant considerations, and the instruction to the Australian Mission in New York or the Australian Embassy Washington, to indicate support for the Joint Statement on the Promotion and Protection of Civil Society issued by the White House on 23 September 2013. The Statement is published at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-offi...

Yours faithfully,

Peter Timmins.

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Our Ref: 1312-F719

Dear Mr Timmins

Re: Freedom of Information (FOI) Request

Thank you for your email dated 11 December in which you seek access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to:

A copy of the document or documents that set out relevant considerations, and the instruction to the Australian Mission in New York or the Australian Embassy Washington, to indicate support for the Joint Statement on the Promotion and Protection of Civil Society issued by the White House on 23 September 2013.

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.

Charges:
Please note that the Department issues charges for processing FOI requests. We will advise you of these charges when we are in a position to estimate the resources required to process your 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 one business day of your receipt of the documents.

Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me on (02) 6261 3470, or by return email.

Please note a copy of this email has been sent to Ms Indra McCormick, Director, Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section, Domestic Legal Branch for her information.

Yours sincerely

Ada Cheung
Executive Officer
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
International Law Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel: +61 2 6261 3470
Fax: +61 2 6261 2144

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment DOC062.PDF.pdf
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Dear Mr Timmins,

Please find attached the charges letter in relation to your FOI request.

Yours sincerely,

Ada Cheung
a/g Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
International Law Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel: +61 2 6261 3470
Fax: +61 2 6261 2144

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear Cheung, Ada,

I was surprised that such a relatively straightforward and narrowly defined request has resulted in a charge of $199.71. And amazed at the precision of that calculation down to the last cent as well!

Coming on top of five hours of processing at no charge, it suggests something of the order of 11 hours will be involved in locating and making a decision on what seems likely to be a few documents.

As the charges letter simply states that the charge is payable but fails to provide, as required by s 29, information about the "the basis on which the assessment is made" I'm not in a position to argue it has been wrongly assesed.

However I submit that the charge should be reduced or not imposed on the following grounds:

The announcement made by The White House in the name of the Australian Government is an important statement-the only statement to date by the current government- in support of civil society and its role in democratic societies. It indicates also-again on the only occasion such views have been expressed by the Abbott government- support for mechanisms such as the Open Government Partnership.

The statement was not the subject of a media release by an Australian minister, and the sentiments have not been expressed in any public statement in Australia.

Access to information about what considerations were taken into account in agreeing to the statement and who authorised its release would provide context about this important commitment by the government, and better inform discussion and debate about these important issues.

The making of requests for information about the workings of government in reaching decisions of this kind is in line with the objects of the Freedom of Information Act. Access would assist public participation in Government processes and increase scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government's activities.

In the circumstances and given the Department's failure to provide information about the basis for the charge, I contend that the charge should not be imposed, or if a charge is imposed that it be reduced substantially.

All the best for the new year.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Timmins

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From: McCormick, Indra
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment Timmins charges reduction letter.pdf
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Dear Mr Timmins
 
Please find attached my response to your email of 31 December. 
 
Kind regards
 
Indra McCormick
Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
6261 3056
 
 
 
 

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear Indra,
Thank you for your response advising that you decided to reduce the charge by 50% to $100.

We could argue the toss on this but at the price of more delay. Tempus fugit,so I'm digging out the wallet. Payment is on the way.

Can't help observing though that as there is no direct deposit or secure credit card options offered payment in this day and age has to be by snail mail. I'll send it today Friday, but you won't get it until at least Tuesday because of the holiday on Monday.

And I shudder to think what it costs the taxpayer to process cheques and money orders in this fashion, but that's for another day.

Look forward to hearing about the department's decision on access.

Happy Australia Day.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Timmins

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From: Judge, Lindy
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Dear Mr Timmins,
Indra McCormick has passed your email regarding your fee reduction and payment options to me for action. I am pleased to provide you an electronic process for payments.

The details for a direct credit are as follows:

Account Name: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
BSB: 092-009
Account Number: 110329

Please include your surname and 'FOI' in the reference field and send an email to [DFAT request email] once you have made the payment so we can notify our Accounts team.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Regards

Lindy Judge
Executive Officer– FOI and Privacy Law Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
____________________________________________________________________

Domestic Legal Branch                                                            E | [email address]
International Organisations and Legal  Division                 T | +61 2 6261 1701

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear Lindy Judge,
Thanks for advising me of the direct deposit option. But too late - I'd already acted on one of the two options provided in Indra McCormick's letter.

It took a little searching to locate the rarely used cheque book but that seemed better than a trip to the Post Office for a Money Order - I'm one of those people old enough to know what they are. I'd been to the nearest post box to send my cheque-for the full amount as I'm trying to hold costs down.

Can I suggest you amend the template letter so that direct deposit is mentioned as a matter of routine?

While you are at it, the Department's address in the template also needs attention.

I'm old enough also to know that the Department is located in the R J Casey (not Case) Building. So old in fact that he was the minister when I joined the Department of External Affairs a long, long time ago.

And that McEwen Drive is named after Deputy Prime Minister John McEwen(not McEwan) who was an institution in that position in those days as well.

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Timmins

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From: Judge, Lindy
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Hi Mr Timmins,

I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend. I will most certainly take care of the matters you have raised and will advise you a s soon as the payment has been received.

Thanks again for pointing out the issue with the template, I have put measures in place to rectify it.

Regards,

Lindy Judge
Executive Officer– FOI and Privacy Law Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
____________________________________________________________________

Domestic Legal Branch                                                            E | [email address]
International Organisations and Legal  Division                 T | +61 2 6261 1701

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment 14456160 P Timmins.pdf
12K Download View as HTML


Hi Mr Timmins,
I am pleased to advise that your payment has been received and receipted on the 31 January 2014.
Also, we have made corrections to our templates to align with the errors you highlighted.

Regards,

Lindy

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Brendan Molloy left an annotation ()

Hasn't this taken so long they need to give you a refund anyway?

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment TIMMINS decision and schedule for release.PDF.pdf
94K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Timmins,
 
Please find attached the decision letter and document schedule in relation
to your FOI request for:
 
“A copy of the document or documents that set out relevant considerations,
and the instruction to the Australian Mission in New York or the
Australian Embassy Washington, to indicate support for the Joint Statement
on the Promotion and Protection of Civil Society issued by the White House
on 23 September 2013”.
 
Please note that the documents will be released to you on receipt of the
balance of charges of  $99.71.
 
Regards,
 
FOI and Privacy Law Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
____________________________________________________________________
 
Corporate Legal Branch    E | [1][email address]
Legal  Division                     T | +61 2 6261 1701
 
 

References

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Brendan Molloy left an annotation ()

Oh they have to be trolling now. The receipt for $100 is in the email chain...

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From: Peter Timmins

Delivered

Dear Lindy Judge,

Please stump up the $99.71 you say before you can release the four relevant documents that have consumed hours of your time and that of Assistant Secretary Campbell!

But Lindy, following the estimate of $199.71 on 20 December, I submitted and you accepted that this should be waived or reduced, you knocked off 50%, and rather than pay you a deposit I paid the lot, $100 by good old reliable cheque. You even sent me a receipt.

So please send the documents,please confirm your charges estimate of 20 December before you got far with this proved to be accurate down to the last 71 cents, and please look at the time sheet and convince me that the decision of 18 February was within time, and you don't owe me a full refund.

Cheers.

Peter Timmins

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Ben Fairless left an annotation ()

And this is why Right to Know is the best way to make FOI requests. Really puts their behavior on show!

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment D14 199147 TIMMINS Documents for release.pdf
5.3M Download View as HTML

Attachment TIMMINS decision and schedule for release.pdf
94K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Timmins

Please find the FOI decision and documents attached.

I confirm that we received full payment of the charges on 31 January.

I also confirm that we are releasing the decision and documents ahead of the statutory timeframe for release which is 22 February 2014.

If you have any further matters you wish to raise, I am happy for you to contact me directly to discuss.

Sincerely

Indra McCormick
Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Corporate Legal Branch
Legal Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel. 6261 1111

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