Disposable equipment expenditure

Christopher Flynn made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Christopher Flynn

Dear Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

Could you please provide the latest document which details the expenditure incurred by the department for computers and communication equipment destroyed upon return to Australia after travel to an untrusted country. Including the costs of destruction.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher Flynn

FOI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade



Our Ref:  1611-F1577


Dear Mr Flynn


Re: Freedom of Information (FOI) Request


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


the latest document which details the expenditure incurred by the
department for computers and communication equipment destroyed upon return
to Australia after travel to an untrusted country. Including the costs of


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 15 November 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 16 December.  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


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).  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.



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:

Your personal information has been collected by the Department as a result
of your correspondence, and will be used in order to process your FOI
request.  Your personal information is protected by law, including the
Privacy Act 1988.  The Department’s privacy policy is available at
[2]dfat.gov.au/privacy.html and contains information about access to or
correction of your personal information, and how you may complain about a
breach of your privacy.


Please note that if we need to consult with other people regarding release
of the documents you have requested, we may need to disclose your personal
information. When we consult with other people about a request you have
made, it may be apparent to those people that you have made a request,
even if we do not disclose your identity. If you have concerns about the
Department consulting with other people about your request, please let us
know your concerns.


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 Helen Horsington,
Director, Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section, for her


Yours sincerely



Ada Cheung
Assistant Director
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Freedom of Information & Privacy Law      E |   
Section [3][email address]
Corporate Legal Branch      T |  +61 2 6261 3470
Legal Division W |  [4]www.dfat.gov.au  





show quoted sections

FOI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

1 Attachment


Dear Mr Flynn,

Please find attached the outcome of your FOI request.

Yours sincerely,

show quoted sections

Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

Maybe I am stupid but it is not apparent to me how it would compromise the national security of Australia to disclose the total cost of equipment that was destroyed. Without some indication of how many items of equipment and exactly what equipment was destroyed, it would not be possible even to estimate a per item cost. Without even this basic information, how could one determine what equipment was destroyed ... and therefore what equipment was originally owned? It is information about the latter that might (unlikely but possible) give inappropriate intelligence information about the cyber security of Australia's diplomatic corps.

Consider a request for review.

James Baldwin left an annotation ()

The applicant clearly states that they are seeking 'the latest document which details the expenditure'. They do not state that they are just after the amount of the expenditure.

I imagine 'the latest document which details the expenditure' includes sensitive information about what, how and when the destruction occurred. I think it's obvious how such a document would attract national security concerns.

The applicant has not, in any way, restricted the request, or excluded the information about what, how and when, and has simply asked for the latest document.

The latest information about the expenditure could also be contained in a wider briefing document. As the applicant has not excluded any part of the document that relates to things other than the expenditure in question, then national security issues could easily arise.

Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

I think that you have the right of it, Mr Baldwin --- at least for the way I originally read the refusal letter. I am sure you are correct to say that I have read the request too narrowly. I read the request to mean that the applicant wanted a list of all the money spent but not with the list to show the money and the disposed equipment together.

But there is more. Sadly (for me) there was more truth in the first four words of my comment than I realised but also, I think, the agency has made an incorrect decision. To be sure, what I mean is that the access refusal decision is probably correct when a person reads the reqeust correctly ... but the ground for the decision is wrong.

Let me assume that the applicant wants a particular document and this document is of the kind that Mr Baldwin says ... a list of equipment that was disposed and a list of the cost of disposal. One can see that this document could compromise national security and would therefore be exempt under s 33. However, this is not what the agency says. The agency puts forward s 25. Section 25 is a different bucket of mackerel. Section 25 is for when it could endanger national security (for example) even to confirm to existence of such a document. So if I ask for a document (I will be foolish here) to show the places of weakness in the latest submarine, the document would be exempt (if it existed) for obvious reasons under s 33. But it would also be exempt under s 25 because it could endanger national security to indicate that there existed a document to show these weaknesses in the submarine because the existence of such a document (even if we do not see it) proves that the submarine has some weaknesses!

For the disposal document that the appliicant requests, I can now see (because of the annotation by Mr Baldwin) the document that the appliicant wants would be exempt under s 33 but I cannot see why it would endanger national security to admit that there exists a document showing the cost and details of the destruction of this equipment.

But again, maybe the first four words of my last annotation have even more truth that I have not recognized.