Correspondence regarding FOI requests made by Justin Warren

Currently waiting for a response from Services Australia, they should respond promptly and normally no later than (details).

Dear Services Australia,

Please treat this as a formal request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

I request a copy of all emails sent or received by Services Australia—and as it was previously known the Department of Human Services—regarding Freedom of Information requests filed by myself, Justin Warren using the RightToKnow service.

This will include all email correspondence internally between staff members (or contractors) of the department, and emails sent to or received from external parties.

Include in the scope all attachments to emails.

Include in the scope all FOI requests made prior to 10 April 2022.

A list of requests is available here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/user/just...

I request that documents be provided in electronic format.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

FREEDOMOFINFORMATION, Services Australia



Thank you for contacting the Freedom of Information (FOI) team in Services
Australia. 

This email acknowledges your correspondence and provides some general
information in relation to FOI.

Timeframe For processing your request

Under the FOI Act you have a right, with limited exceptions, to access
documents the agency holds. A FOI request normally takes 30 days to
process.

Please note this period may be further extended if we need to consult
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request and the amount of any such charge as soon as practicable. No
charge is payable for providing a person with their own personal
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Your Address

The FOI Act requires you provide us with an address which we can send
notices to. We will send all notices and correspondence to the address you
have used to email us. Please advise us as soon as possible if you wish
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Administrative release of documents   

The agency has administrative access arrangements in place for the release
of certain documents without the need for a formal FOI request. These
arrangements do not extend to information or material of third parties.

Exclusion of junior staff details

Services Australia is working towards ensuring all staff have a choice
about whether they provide their full name, personal logon identifiers and
direct contact details in response to FOI requests. Where such details are
included in documents they will be redacted. If you request staff details
as part of your FOI application, this may add to processing time and
applicable charges as it will be necessary to consider whether these
details are exempt under the Act.

            

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FOI.LEGAL.TEAM, Services Australia

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Warren,

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request made under
the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth).

Kind regards,

Hannah

Information Access Branch

LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

[1]cid:image002.jpg@01D6BC07.2D63B370

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Dear Hannah,

Thank you for your email.

From the information you have provided, it is difficult to know how to most effectively narrow my request to be more tractable, but I will make some suggestions.

I am seeking to understand what information and opinions the department has held about me in the course of handling my FOI requests over time. Constraining the scope to a single FOI request would not achieve this objective. Similarly, I seek to understand the potential change in opinion through time, which necessarily requires seeking documents related to more than one FOI request.

I have purposefully limited my request to email and attachments so as to avoid including all documents held by the department that may contain information or opinions about me.

I am prepared to exclude email attachments if that will sufficiently reduce the work effort of processing my request. It is difficult to tell, based on the information you have provided thus far, how much impact this change in scope would have, as there is no breakdown on how many documents or pages are contained in email attachments as distinct from the emails themselves.

I am also prepared to exclude from scope emails (and attachments) sent to the department from external parties, as these are likely to contain information and opinions held by external parties rather than by the department. I would still prefer to include in scope email and attachments sent *from* the department to external parties as they are more likely to contain information and opinions held by the department.

It would also be useful to have a breakdown of roughly how many documents relate to each FOI request. I may be able to exclude certain FOI requests that constitute substantial effort while still achieving my objective of gaining access to the information and opinions held about me by the department.

I am happy to continue the consultation process to arrive at a scope that is reasonably achievable, and I look forward to your prompt response. I am also happy to discuss this matter on the phone if you provide me with a way to contact you. It might be quicker and more cost effective to do that rather than continue to trade emails back and forth.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

Services Australia

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FOI.LEGAL.TEAM, Services Australia

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Warren,

 

Thank you for your correspondence dated 28 April 2022.

 

I am providing the following further information to you, as this may
assist you in revising the scope of your request. 

 

From your email of 28 April 2022, I understand that you are seeking
information to allow you to understand what information and opinions
Services Australia (through its staff) have held about you in the course
of handling your FOI requests over time. Specifically, you seek to
understand the changes in opinion about you over time.

 

However, as outlined in my letter to you dated 27 April 2022, the scope of
your request captures a significant volume of documents, and as such a
'practical refusal reason' exists. The current wording of your request
captures agency records relating to:

 

·         Thirty three (33) FOI requests you have lodged using the
'RightToKnow' service, and

·         Reviews by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
(OAIC) and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) of decisions made on
those requests.

 

Based on the initial search and retrieval estimate, which has been
undertaken in relation to the current scope of your request, a very large
volume of documents is captured by your request. This means that the
agency is unable to provide you with a breakdown of how many documents
relate to each FOI request, because this would require a significant
amount of time and agency resources to locate, identify and then review
the documents in order to provide this information to you.

 

I suggest you may wish to revise your request to only seek access to
documents relating to:

 

·         a specific FOI request (LEX matter) and decision

·         correspondence relating to a specific topic or keyword to enable
targeted searches to be completed for the correspondence you are seeking

·         correspondence between specific people, or

·         a specific date range.

 

Alternatively, you may wish to:

 

·         exclude particular documents that are not of interest, such as:

-          attachments to emails

-          emails from external parties

-          documents you have already received (for example via FOI),
and/or

-          documents about reviews undertaken by the OAIC or the AAT, or

·         restrict your request to correspondence relating to one specific
FOI request, excluding documents relating to review by the OAIC or the AAT
and any documents which you have already received a copy of via FOI.

 

I can confirm that only removing attachments from your request and/or
excluding emails from external parties, as you have suggested in your
email, is unlikely to remove the practical refusal reason.  I have formed
this view, based on the initial search and retrieval estimate which has
been undertaken in relation to the current scope of your request.

 

Please note that even if you do revise the scope, the practical refusal
reason may remain if the revised request is still too large to be
processed. You will need to take this into consideration when revising the
scope of your request. 

 

If you would like to discuss revising the scope, I would be happy to
contact you via telephone. To arrange this please respond to this email
advising of a suitable contact number and two suitable dates/times (during
ordinary business hours).

 

I trust this information will be of assistance to you in considering
revising your request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hannah

Information Access Branch

LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

[1]cid:image002.jpg@01D6BC07.2D63B370

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immediately and permanently delete this email.

 

 

 

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Dear Hannah,

I am happy to revise my request to exclude:
- attachments
- correspondence sent from external parties
- documents I have already received (for example via FOI)
- correspondence to or from the AAT and/or OAIC relating to my FOI requests

I am a little surprised the department is unable to provide a rough estimate of how many emails are related for each FOI request, given that the department assigns a unique reference number to each request and this reference number appears in the subject of emails that I have received from the department about my FOI requests. It seems to me that these reference numbers would provide the keywords that would enable targeted searches to be completed as you have suggested.

Agencies are responsible for managing and storing records in a way that facilitates finding them for the purposes of an FOI request ([2017] AICmr 116 at [37]). Poor record keeping or an inefficient filing system would not of themselves provide grounds for a claim that identifying or locating documents would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of resources (FOI Guidelines [3.101]).

To discuss the scope further, please select a time that suits you with my scheduling tool that knows my calendar and is able to provide a range of times I am available: https://go.oncehub.com/JustinWarren

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

FOI.LEGAL.TEAM, Services Australia

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Warren,

 

I note that we have not received a response to the below correspondence to
you dated 2 May 2022.

 

As per our earlier correspondence to you on 27 April 2022, your response
is expected by today, 11 May 2022.

 

Please advise if you require the consultation period to be extended.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hannah

Information Access Branch

LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

[1]cid:image002.jpg@01D6BC07.2D63B370

Please note: This email and any attachments may contain information
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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM <[email address]>
Sent: Monday, 2 May 2022 5:01 PM
To: '[FOI #8731 email]'
<[FOI #8731 email]>
Cc: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM <[email address]>
Subject: LEX 67435 - WARREN, Justin - s24AB consultation correspondence
[SEC=OFFICIAL]

 

Dear Mr Warren,

 

Thank you for your correspondence dated 28 April 2022.

 

I am providing the following further information to you, as this may
assist you in revising the scope of your request. 

 

From your email of 28 April 2022, I understand that you are seeking
information to allow you to understand what information and opinions
Services Australia (through its staff) have held about you in the course
of handling your FOI requests over time. Specifically, you seek to
understand the changes in opinion about you over time.

 

However, as outlined in my letter to you dated 27 April 2022, the scope of
your request captures a significant volume of documents, and as such a
'practical refusal reason' exists. The current wording of your request
captures agency records relating to:

 

·         Thirty three (33) FOI requests you have lodged using the
'RightToKnow' service, and

·         Reviews by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
(OAIC) and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) of decisions made on
those requests.

 

Based on the initial search and retrieval estimate, which has been
undertaken in relation to the current scope of your request, a very large
volume of documents is captured by your request. This means that the
agency is unable to provide you with a breakdown of how many documents
relate to each FOI request, because this would require a significant
amount of time and agency resources to locate, identify and then review
the documents in order to provide this information to you.

 

I suggest you may wish to revise your request to only seek access to
documents relating to:

 

·         a specific FOI request (LEX matter) and decision

·         correspondence relating to a specific topic or keyword to enable
targeted searches to be completed for the correspondence you are seeking

·         correspondence between specific people, or

·         a specific date range.

 

Alternatively, you may wish to:

 

·         exclude particular documents that are not of interest, such as:

-          attachments to emails

-          emails from external parties

-          documents you have already received (for example via FOI),
and/or

-          documents about reviews undertaken by the OAIC or the AAT, or

·         restrict your request to correspondence relating to one specific
FOI request, excluding documents relating to review by the OAIC or the AAT
and any documents which you have already received a copy of via FOI.

 

I can confirm that only removing attachments from your request and/or
excluding emails from external parties, as you have suggested in your
email, is unlikely to remove the practical refusal reason.  I have formed
this view, based on the initial search and retrieval estimate which has
been undertaken in relation to the current scope of your request.

 

Please note that even if you do revise the scope, the practical refusal
reason may remain if the revised request is still too large to be
processed. You will need to take this into consideration when revising the
scope of your request. 

 

If you would like to discuss revising the scope, I would be happy to
contact you via telephone. To arrange this please respond to this email
advising of a suitable contact number and two suitable dates/times (during
ordinary business hours).

 

I trust this information will be of assistance to you in considering
revising your request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hannah

Information Access Branch

LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

[2]cid:image002.jpg@01D6BC07.2D63B370

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sensitive or confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this
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immediately and permanently delete this email.

 

 

 

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Dear Hannah,

I responded to your correspondence of 2 May 2022 on 3 May 2022 as archived here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/c...
The RightToKnow website lists the message as Delivered, so I am unclear on why you have not received it.

Nevertheless, I shall restate my previous correspondence. Please confirm that you have received it successfully.

I am happy to revise my request to exclude:
- attachments
- correspondence sent from external parties
- documents I have already received (for example via FOI)
- correspondence to or from the AAT and/or OAIC relating to my FOI requests

I am a little surprised the department is unable to provide a rough estimate of how many emails are related for each FOI request, given that the department assigns a unique reference number to each request and this reference number appears in the subject of emails that I have received from the department about my FOI requests. It seems to me that these reference numbers would provide the keywords that would enable targeted searches to be completed as you have suggested.

Agencies are responsible for managing and storing records in a way that facilitates finding them for the purposes of an FOI request ([2017] AICmr 116 at [37]). Poor record keeping or an inefficient filing system would not of themselves provide grounds for a claim that identifying or locating documents would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of resources (FOI Guidelines [3.101]).

To discuss the scope further, please select a time that suits you with my scheduling tool that knows my calendar and is able to provide a range of times I am available: https://go.oncehub.com/JustinWarren

In light of the communication issues, yes, an extension to the consultation period seems advisable.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

FOI.LEGAL.TEAM, Services Australia

Dear Mr Warren,

I can confirm I have received your email today dated 11 May 2022.

Unfortunately, we have no record of the correspondence you have mentioned dated 3 May 2022.

I will review the information you have provided in your correspondence below and endeavour to respond to you by Friday 13 May 2022.

In the interim, I will extend the consultation period to 18 May 2022.

Kind regards,

Hannah
Information Access Branch
LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

Please note: This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

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Dear Hannah,

I contacted the RightToKnow admins, who pointed out that the website includes an evidence trail of email delivery. The green tick and Delivered status indicates that the RTK website delivered my email of 2 May 2022 to a Services Australia mailserver.

The following technical information may assist your IT staff to diagnose the issue with your mail infrastructure.

May 3 09:08:15 ip-172-31-43-31 postfix/pickup[26847]: 4F8A43E991: uid=1001 from=<foi+request-8731-[REDACTED]@righttoknow.org.au>
May 3 09:08:15 ip-172-31-43-31 postfix/cleanup[2443]: 4F8A43E991: message-id=<[email address]>
May 3 09:08:15 ip-172-31-43-31 postfix/qmgr[1552]: 4F8A43E991: from=<foi+request-8731-[REDACTED]@righttoknow.org.au>, size=8241, nrcpt=1 (queue active)
May 3 09:08:15 ip-172-31-43-31 postfix/smtp[2445]: 4F8A43E991: to=<[email address]>, relay=mailin8.servicesaustralia.gov.au[161.146.192.4]:25, delay=0.68, delays=0.02/0.01/0.19/0.46, dsn=2.0.0, status=sent (250 ok: Message 13860882 accepted)
May 3 09:08:16 ip-172-31-43-31 postfix/qmgr[1552]: 4F8A43E991: removed

For the record, this is evidence that my correspondence of 3 May 2022 was received by Services Australia at 9:08am on 3 May 2022.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

Justin Warren left an annotation ()

RightToKnow tracks when it sends an email to a department, and if you're logged in you can see the email logs that show the delivery attempt and evidence it was successful, if it was.
No idea what happened internally at Services Australia in this case, but they definitely received my email on 3 May 2022.
Maybe their special "oh no, not him again" filter was broken?

FOI.LEGAL.TEAM, Services Australia

Dear Mr Warren,

The agency utilises HPE TRIM electronic files and shared electronic folders as repositories for documentation relating to freedom of information requests. This includes emails which are required to be transferred from Outlook into TRIM for storing. As such, emails relevant to your FOI requests may be stored across multiple locations (outlook, HPE TRIM and shared electronic folders) in accordance with record keeping requirements.

The process of searching for and confirming how many emails relate to each individual FOI request therefore involves checking records saved across each of these repositories manually, by opening, reading and reviewing the content of each document to confirm whether it falls within scope of the request, and cross checking results to prevent duplication.

As such, the agency is unable to provide you with a breakdown of how many emails relate to each FOI request, because the work involved in determining this would, in itself, require a significant amount of time and agency resources.

I consider that excluding attachments, correspondence from external third parties, documents you have already received and correspondence to or from the AAT and/or OAIC relating to your FOI requests is unlikely to remove the practical refusal reason. I have formed this view based on the initial search and retrieval estimate which has been undertaken in relation to the current scope of your request.

In light of this, I suggest you may wish to revise your request further to only seek access to documents relating to:

· a specific FOI request (LEX matter) and decision
· a specific and limited date range.

Please note that even if you do revise the scope further, the practical refusal reason may remain if the revised request is still too large to be processed. You will need to take this into consideration when revising the scope of your request.

As the request consultation period is due to end on Wednesday 18 May 2022, we look forward to receiving advice by this date as to whether you wish to further revise the scope of your request, withdraw the request or do not wish to revise your request.

Kind regards,

Hannah
Information Access Branch
LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

Please note: This email and any attachments may contain information subject to legal professional privilege or information that is otherwise sensitive or confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are prohibited from using or disseminating this communication. If you have received this communication in error please notify the sender immediately and permanently delete this email.

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Services Australia

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Dear Hannah,

I am trying to adjust the scope of my request to avoid a practical refusal, but the lack of information being provided by the department is making this difficult. I direct the department to section 24AB(4)(b) of the FOI Act:

(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.

I am being forced to guess at a scope that may fit within what the department considers practical without guidance as to what the department's definition of 'practical' is, nor whether a particular change in scope will actually be effective in avoiding a practical refusal. I have asked for specific information that would assist me, yet the department appears unwilling to provide it. This does not appear to me to constitute 'reasonable steps'.

This is not the first time I have had this experience with the department (e.g. [2019] AICmr 22).

I note that you have not, as yet, taken up the opportunity to book a phone call with me at a mutually convenient time to discuss the scope and how it can be adjusted to avoid a practical refusal. The method I have proposed (my booking tool here: https://go.oncehub.com/JustinWarren) would not require you to provide a contact phone number, something that the department has been at pains to avoid for many years. The department's steadfast refusal to have a simple discussion, combined with its insistence on vagueness in written communications, is providing a barrier to effective consultation. I am working hard to engage with the department in good faith; the department does not appear to be extending me the same courtesy.

As I have previously explained, I am looking to understand a pattern over time. You have provided no guidance as to how limited a date range would need to be in order to avoid a practical refusal reason. I acknowledge that some FOI requests may involve a greater number of documents than others. If you could provide me with some sort of breakdown of number of documents by category (such as date range, FOI request, or any other categorisation that your filing system uses), even if merely indicative (such as order of magnitude), that would assist me to find a range that is useful to me while avoiding undue difficulty for the department. Your system has been able to determine that you hold over 3,600 documents and over 11,000 pages within the original scope, so we know that you are able to at least estimate the number of pages per document within the scope without opening, reading and reviewing the content of each document. I find it difficult to believe that it is not possible to do this with subsets of the current scope.

Once again I draw your attention to paragraph [3.115] of the FOI Guidelines which states (in part): "Poor record keeping or an inefficient filing system would not of themselves provide grounds for a claim that processing the request would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of resources."

I remain willing to reduce the scope to something tractable, but I require additional guidance from the department as to how this can be achieved. I am willing to continue the consultation process to achieve this.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

FOI.LEGAL.TEAM, Services Australia

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please be advised the estimate provided to you, advising that the agency
holds more than 3,600 documents, was not determined by Services
Australia’s (the agency) systems. In order to provide this estimate, an
officer of the agency undertook a manual review of documents held by the
agency across multiple record repositories. Due to the volume of documents
captured by your request, the officer assessed a 10% sample of internal
agency reference numbers relevant to your request and established the
estimated figure by extrapolating the sample results over the entire
request.

 

As such, and as previously stated, the agency is unable to provide you
with a breakdown of how many emails relate to each FOI request, because
the work involved in determining this would, in itself, require a
significant amount of time and agency resources to manually compile. 

 

I understand from your correspondence that the reason for your request is
to understand a pattern over time. However, it is not for the agency to
undertake such a subjective analysis of documents which may assist your
purpose, rather to provide documents in response to a defined scope.

 

In order to provide a scope that sufficiently identifies the specific
documents sought and removes the practical refusal reason, as previously
suggested, you may wish to revise your scope to be for:

 

In relation to (LEX XXXXX), and between the date of the lodgement of the
original request and the (e.g. original decision/internal review
decision):

- a copy of all emails sent or received by Services Australia (or
Department of Human Services) [Excluding attachments, correspondence from
external third parties, documents you have already received and
correspondence to or from the AAT and/or OAIC].

 

Based on the sample of documents, reducing your request to be in relation
to any single FOI request is likely to remove the practical refusal
reason.

 

As noted above the reason for your request is to understand a pattern over
time, in order to address this reason in the context of providing
information to assist you to revise the request, you may wish to consider
lodging one FOI matter now and after this is completed, proceed to lodge a
subsequent request so as not to overwhelm the resources of the agency.
Lodging a new request at the completion of a previous request would
achieve an appropriate balance between you exercising your rights to
access information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, and not
imposing an unreasonable diversion of resources upon the agency. If you
were to lodge multiple requests at one time, this may result in a
practical refusal reason existing.

 

I thank you for your invitation to book a phone call, I have booked a time
to discuss this matter with you.

 

I have extended the consultation period to 25 May 2022 to allow you time
to consider your response.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hannah

Information Access Branch

LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

[1]cid:image002.jpg@01D6BC07.2D63B370

Please note: This email and any attachments may contain information
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immediately and permanently delete this email.

 

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Justin Warren left an annotation ()

Call booked for 9:30am on Tue 24 May 2022 to discuss the scope and attempt to find a resolution we can both live with.

FOI.LEGAL.TEAM, Services Australia

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Warren,

 

Thankyou for meeting with me today to discuss revising your FOI request
(LEX 67435).

 

In summary, we discussed:

·       The manual work involved in establishing an estimate of how many
emails relate to each FOI request. You advised you feel that the agency’s
filing system is inefficient and that you may lodge a complaint to the
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

·       My recent correspondence to you dated 18 May 2022, in which I
suggested lodging requests for one LEX reference number at a time.

·       I suggested whether you may wish to lodge a request relating to 2
or 3 FOI requests at a time and this would allow the agency to either move
forward with the request, or the request would be limited enough to
provide you with a breakdown relating to the 3 specified matters.

·       You suggested lodging a request that captures one FOI matter per
year over 5 years, I advised I felt that would be reasonable to move
forward with, and that if the request is too voluminous to process, the
narrowed scope will allow the agency to be able to provide a breakdown of
how many documents relate to each matter so that you can make an informed
decision on how to revise.  

·       I advised you that I would send you a summary of our conversation
and that I would extend the consultation period to 27 May 2022. You
advised me that you would also send me a summary of what we discussed.

 

As discussed I have extended the consultation period until Friday 27 May
2022, I look forward to receiving your advice as to how you would like to
proceed, by this date.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hannah

Information Access Branch

LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

[1]cid:image002.jpg@01D6BC07.2D63B370

Please note: This email and any attachments may contain information
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From: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM <[email address]>
Sent: Wednesday, 18 May 2022 4:01 PM
To: Justin Warren <[FOI #8731 email]>
Cc: FOI.LEGAL.TEAM <[email address]>
Subject: RE: LEX 67435 - WARREN, Justin - s24AB consultation
correspondence [SEC=OFFICIAL]

 

Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please be advised the estimate provided to you, advising that the agency
holds more than 3,600 documents, was not determined by Services
Australia’s (the agency) systems. In order to provide this estimate, an
officer of the agency undertook a manual review of documents held by the
agency across multiple record repositories. Due to the volume of documents
captured by your request, the officer assessed a 10% sample of internal
agency reference numbers relevant to your request and established the
estimated figure by extrapolating the sample results over the entire
request.

 

As such, and as previously stated, the agency is unable to provide you
with a breakdown of how many emails relate to each FOI request, because
the work involved in determining this would, in itself, require a
significant amount of time and agency resources to manually compile. 

 

I understand from your correspondence that the reason for your request is
to understand a pattern over time. However, it is not for the agency to
undertake such a subjective analysis of documents which may assist your
purpose, rather to provide documents in response to a defined scope.

 

In order to provide a scope that sufficiently identifies the specific
documents sought and removes the practical refusal reason, as previously
suggested, you may wish to revise your scope to be for:

 

In relation to (LEX XXXXX), and between the date of the lodgement of the
original request and the (e.g. original decision/internal review
decision):

- a copy of all emails sent or received by Services Australia (or
Department of Human Services) [Excluding attachments, correspondence from
external third parties, documents you have already received and
correspondence to or from the AAT and/or OAIC].

 

Based on the sample of documents, reducing your request to be in relation
to any single FOI request is likely to remove the practical refusal
reason.

 

As noted above the reason for your request is to understand a pattern over
time, in order to address this reason in the context of providing
information to assist you to revise the request, you may wish to consider
lodging one FOI matter now and after this is completed, proceed to lodge a
subsequent request so as not to overwhelm the resources of the agency.
Lodging a new request at the completion of a previous request would
achieve an appropriate balance between you exercising your rights to
access information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, and not
imposing an unreasonable diversion of resources upon the agency. If you
were to lodge multiple requests at one time, this may result in a
practical refusal reason existing.

 

I thank you for your invitation to book a phone call, I have booked a time
to discuss this matter with you.

 

I have extended the consultation period to 25 May 2022 to allow you time
to consider your response.

 

Kind regards,

 

Hannah

Information Access Branch

LEGAL SERVICES DIVISION

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If you have received this communication in error please notify the sender
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Dear Hannah,

Thank you for your time yesterday. It was a productive discussion, and helped us to more promptly and efficiently move towards a tractable scope. I hope that this indicates a change in policy within the department and that this level of productive consultation is now the norm. It is a welcome change from the belligerent obstructionism of the past.

I concur with your characterisation of the discussion. As you alluded to, the main impediment to providing me with information that would assist me to revise my request is the inefficient filing system the department uses. This is not within your individual control, and is a systemic issue related to how the department resources its FOI obligations. I will take this matter up with the OAIC.

As discussed, I will select an individual FOI request from each of the years within the scope to serve as a representative sample over time. I will attempt to avoid selecting FOI requests that will result in a practical refusal reason remaining, but, as we discussed, it is not possible for me to guarantee that I will guess correctly at how the department organises its documents internally. If my guess happens to select an FOI request that ends up being too voluminous to remove the practical refusal reason, you will inform me that this is the case and I will guess again. I will make my first guess by 27 May 2022.

While I am confident that this will rapidly remove the practical refusal reason, as there are not that many possible guesses I can make, I wish to state for the record my displeasure that this process is necessary. I believe it is in direct opposition to Objects of the FOI Act, specifically section 3(4).

I once again acknowledge that you, as an individual FOI officer, are unable to effect a systemic change and thank you for your attempts to assist me in navigating the Kafkaesque FOI system the department has constructed around you.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren