Communications with Nauruan authorities about visa applications

Dan West made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The request was partially successful.

From: Dan West

Delivered

Dear Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

I would like to request all communications between (representatives of) the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and (representatives of) the government and/or authorities of Nauru regarding tourist, business or research visa applications made to the Nauruan authorities between April 2012 and July 2017. This includes all formal and informal communications by any means of communication.

Thank you in advance,

Yours faithfully,

Dan West

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

UNCLASSIFIED

 

Our Ref: 1705-F1725

 

Dear Mr West

 

Re: Freedom of Information (FOI) Request

 

Thank you for your email dated 30 June in which you seek access under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 to:

 

“all communications between (representatives of) the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade and (representatives of) the government and/or
authorities of Nauru regarding tourist, business or research visa
applications made to the Nauruan authorities between April 2012 and July
2017. This includes all formal and informal communications by any means of
communication.”

 

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.

 

Timeframe for receiving your decision:

We received your request on 30 June and the 30 day statutory period for
processing your request commenced from the day after that date.  You
should therefore expect a decision from us by 31 July.  The period of 30
days may be extended in certain circumstances.  We will advise you if
there is any extension of time.

 

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.

 

Exclusion of officials’ names and contact details:

It is the Department’s policy to withhold the mobile numbers of all
government officials, and the names and contact details of government
officials not in the Senior Executive Service (SES) or equivalent.  If you
require the mobile numbers of all government officials, or the names and
contact details of non-SES officials, please let us know at
[1][DFAT request email] so the decision-maker may consider; otherwise we will
take it that you agree to that information being excluded from the scope
of your 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
documents to the disclosure log on the same day as the documents are
released to you. 

 

Personal Information:

If we need to consult with other people or organisations regarding your
FOI request, we may need to disclose your personal information (e.g. your
name).  When we consult it may be apparent that you have made a request,
even if we do not disclose your identity.  Please let us know if you have
any concerns in this regard.  The Department’s privacy policy is available
at [2]dfat.gov.au/privacy.html.

 

Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to
contact me by return email.

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Team

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

 

 

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

UNCLASSIFIED

 

FOI Ref:  1707-F1725

 

Dear Mr West

 

Re: Freedom of Information (FOI) Request Thank you for your e-mail of 30
June, seeking access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI
Act) to:

 

I would like to request all communications between (representatives of)
the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and (representatives of) the
government and/or authorities of Nauru regarding tourist, business or
research visa applications made to the Nauruan authorities between April
2012 and July 2017. This includes all formal and informal communications
by any means of communication.

 

Practical refusal reason

 

Notice is hereby given under section 24AB(2) of the FOI Act of an
intention to refuse to grant access to the documents sought.  The
practical refusal reason is that the work involved in processing the
request would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of DFAT
from its other operations.

 

In deciding that this practical refusal reason exists, I have given
consideration to how DFAT could proceed to process your request, and the
time and resources that would be involved in doing so.  As DFAT is the
formal diplomatic channel for visa applications for Australian government
officials visiting Nauru (which is a subset of the business visa
category), your request has captured over 400 documents held by our
diplomatic Mission in Nauru alone.

 

I am therefore of the opinion that processing your request in its current
form would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of DFAT’s resources
within the meaning of section 24AA(1). 

 

Consultation process

 

In accordance with section 24AB(2)(e), the consultation period during
which you may consult with me to revise the scope of your request is 14
days after the day you are given this notice. Please note that if you do
not take this opportunity to consult, in accordance with section
24AB(7)(a), your request will be taken to have been withdrawn under
section 24AB(6).

 

Ways in which you could narrow the scope of your request include:

-          confining it to specific categories of documents, such as
letters; and

-          refining the scope of your request to exclude routine
communications concerning travel by Australian officials.

 

I am the DFAT officer with whom you may consult if you wish to revise the
request to a narrower scope such that it could in fact be processed. I may
be contacted by email at: [1][DFAT request email] and I am happy to take any
reasonable steps provide you, so far as is reasonably practicable, with
any information that I can to assist you in amending your request under
the FOI Act.

 

Please note that during this period of consultation, the statutory
timeframe under section 15(5) of the FOI Act for the processing of your
request is on hold (see section 24AB(8) for details).

 

I have attached a copy of sections 24, 24AA and 24AB of the FOI Act for
your information.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Helen Horsington

Director

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section

Attachment A

24  Power to refuse request—diversion of resources etc.

              (1)         If an agency or Minister is satisfied, when
dealing with a request for a document, that a practical refusal reason
exists in relation to the request (see section 24AA), the agency or
Minister:

              (a)         must undertake a request consultation process
(see section 24AB); and

              (b)         if, after the request consultation process, the
agency or Minister is satisfied that the practical refusal reason still
exists—the agency or Minister may refuse to give access to the document in
accordance with the request.

              (2)         For the purposes of this section, the agency or
Minister may treat 2 or more requests as a single request if the agency or
Minister is satisfied that:

              (a)         the requests relate to the same document or
documents; or

              (b)         the requests relate to documents, the subject
matter of which is substantially the same.

24AA  When does a practical refusal reason exist?

              (1)         For the purposes of section 24, a practical
refusal reason exists in relation to a request for a document if either
(or both) of the following applies:

              (a)         the work involved in processing the request:

              (i)           in the case of an agency—would substantially
and unreasonably divert the resources of the agency from its other
operations; or

              (ii)          in the case of a Minister—would substantially
and unreasonably interfere with the performance of the Minister’s
functions;

              (b)         the request does not satisfy the requirement in
paragraph 15(2)(b) (identification of documents).

              (2)         Subject to subsection (3), but without limiting
the matters to which the agency or Minister may have regard, in deciding
whether a practical refusal reason exists, the agency or Minister must
have regard to the resources that would have to be used for the following:

              (a)         identifying, locating or collating the documents
within the filing system of the agency, or the office of the Minister;

              (b)         deciding whether to grant, refuse or defer
access to a document to which the request relates, or to grant access to
an edited copy of such a document, including resources that would have to
be used for:

              (i)           examining the document; or

              (ii)          consulting with any person or body in relation
to the request;

              (c)          making a copy, or an edited copy, of the
document;

              (d)         notifying any interim or final decision on the
request.

              (3)         In deciding whether a practical refusal reason
exists, an agency or Minister must not have regard to:

              (a)         any reasons that the applicant gives for
requesting access; or

              (b)         the agency’s or Minister’s belief as to what the
applicant’s reasons are for requesting access; or

              (c)          any maximum amount, specified in the
regulations, payable as a charge for processing a request of that kind.

24AB  What is a request consultation process?

Scope

              (1)         This section sets out what is a request
consultation process for the purposes of section 24.

Requirement to notify

              (2)         The agency or Minister must give the applicant a
written notice stating the following:

              (a)         an intention to refuse access to a document in
accordance with a request;

              (b)         the practical refusal reason;

              (c)          the name of an officer of the agency or member
of staff of the Minister (the contact person) with whom the applicant may
consult during a period;

              (d)         details of how the applicant may contact the
contact person;

              (e)         that the period (the consultation period) during
which the applicant may consult with the contact person is 14 days after
the day the applicant is given the notice.

Assistance to revise request

              (3)         If the applicant contacts the contact person
during the consultation period in accordance with the notice, the agency
or Minister must take reasonable steps to assist the applicant to revise
the request so that the practical refusal reason no longer exists.

              (4)         For the purposes of subsection (3), reasonable
steps includes the following:

              (a)         giving the applicant a reasonable opportunity to
consult with the contact person;

              (b)         providing the applicant with any information
that would assist the applicant to revise the request.

Extension of consultation period

              (5)         The contact person may, with the applicant’s
agreement, extend the consultation period by written notice to the
applicant.

Outcome of request consultation process

              (6)         The applicant must, before the end of the
consultation period, do one of the following, by written notice to the
agency or Minister:

              (a)         withdraw the request;

              (b)         make a revised request;

              (c)          indicate that the applicant does not wish to
revise the request.

              (7)         The request is taken to have been withdrawn
under subsection (6) at the end of the consultation period if:

              (a)         the applicant does not consult the contact
person during the consultation period in accordance with the notice; or

              (b)         the applicant does not do one of the things
mentioned in subsection (6) before the end of the consultation period.

Consultation period to be disregarded in calculating processing period

              (8)         The period starting on the day an applicant is
given a notice under subsection (2) and ending on the day the applicant
does one of the things mentioned in paragraph (6)(b) or (c) is to be
disregarded in working out the 30 day period mentioned in paragraph
15(5)(b).

Note:    Paragraph 15(5)(b) requires that an agency or Minister take all
reasonable steps to notify an applicant of a decision on the applicant’s
request within 30 days after the request is made.

No more than one request consultation process required

              (9)         To avoid doubt, this section only obliges the
agency or Minister to undertake a request consultation process once for
any particular request.

 

 

 

 

From: FOI
Sent: Tuesday, 4 July 2017 11:04 AM
To: Dan West <[FOI #3694 email]>
Subject: RE: Freedom of Information request - Communications with Nauruan
authorities about visa applications [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

 

UNCLASSIFIED

 

Our Ref: 1705-F1725

 

Dear Mr West

 

Re: Freedom of Information (FOI) Request

 

Thank you for your email dated 30 June in which you seek access under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 to:

 

“all communications between (representatives of) the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade and (representatives of) the government and/or
authorities of Nauru regarding tourist, business or research visa
applications made to the Nauruan authorities between April 2012 and July
2017. This includes all formal and informal communications by any means of
communication.”

 

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.

 

Timeframe for receiving your decision:

We received your request on 30 June and the 30 day statutory period for
processing your request commenced from the day after that date.  You
should therefore expect a decision from us by 31 July.  The period of 30
days may be extended in certain circumstances.  We will advise you if
there is any extension of time.

 

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.

 

Exclusion of officials’ names and contact details:

It is the Department’s policy to withhold the mobile numbers of all
government officials, and the names and contact details of government
officials not in the Senior Executive Service (SES) or equivalent.  If you
require the mobile numbers of all government officials, or the names and
contact details of non-SES officials, please let us know at
[2][DFAT request email] so the decision-maker may consider; otherwise we will
take it that you agree to that information being excluded from the scope
of your 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
documents to the disclosure log on the same day as the documents are
released to you. 

 

Personal Information:

If we need to consult with other people or organisations regarding your
FOI request, we may need to disclose your personal information (e.g. your
name).  When we consult it may be apparent that you have made a request,
even if we do not disclose your identity.  Please let us know if you have
any concerns in this regard.  The Department’s privacy policy is available
at [3]dfat.gov.au/privacy.html.

 

Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to
contact me by return email.

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Team

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

 

 

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From: Dan West

Delivered

Dear ms. Horsington,

Thank you for your response to my request. I understand that the scope of my request is too broad and would involve an unreasonable amount of time and work. In response to your consultation and as suggested by you, I would like to refine the scope of my request to exclude routine communications concerning travel by Australian officials. I trust that my refined request can be processed in this way.

Could you please confirm the proper receipt of this message?

Yours sincerely,

Dan West

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr West

Thank you for your below message narrowing the scope of your request to:

I would like to request all communications between (representatives of) the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and (representatives of) the government and/or authorities of Nauru regarding tourist, business or research visa applications made to the Nauruan authorities between April 2012 and July 2017. This includes all formal and informal communications by any means of communication but excludes routine concerning travel by Australian officials.

In consultation with the relevant line areas, I am of the view that this request is able to be processed by the Department without requiring an unreasonable diversion of resources.

Yours sincerely

Helen Horsington
Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law

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From: Dan West

Delivered

Dear Ms. Horsington,

Thank you for your acknowledgment. I look forward to your further response once my request has been processed by the Department.

Yours sincerely,

Dan West

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment West F1725 charges letter.pdf
222K Download View as HTML


UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr West,

Please find attached the charges letter in relation to this request.

Yours sincerely,
DFAT FOI Team.

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From: Dan West

Delivered

Dear Ms Horsington,

Thank you for your response. In order to reduce the applicable fee, I would like to narrow my request in the following way:

I would like to request all communications between (representatives of) the 
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and (representatives of) the government 
and/or authorities of Nauru regarding business or research visa applications 
made to the Nauruan authorities between April 2013 and January 2016. This includes all 
formal and informal communications by any means of communication but excludes 
documents concerning travel by Australian officials. 

Please note that I have altered the request in two ways, i.e. by omitting reference to 'tourist' visas and by amending the time frame to April 2013-January 2016.

Could you please acknowledge receipt of this message?

Thank you in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Dan West

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr West,

Thank you for your email of 14 August, which we have received.

The Department will revert to you shortly regarding next steps.

DFAT FOI Team

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr West

Thank you for your proposal to narrow the scope of your request to:

"I would like to request all communications between (representatives of) the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and (representatives of) the government and/or authorities of Nauru regarding business or research visa applications made to the Nauruan authorities between April 2013 and January 2016. This includes all formal and informal communications by any means of communication but excludes documents concerning travel by Australian officials."

The new scope of your request has captured one document, a Nauran Government press release which is publicly available at: http://naurugov.nr/government-informatio...

With this in mind, I would be grateful if you could confirm whether you wish to proceed with this request.

Yours sincerely

Helen Horsington
Director
FOI and Privacy Law

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade only: