Documents relating to discussions with the RSL and/or RSL funded research institutions on the subject of research into the adverse effects of mefloquine

Stuart McCarthy made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Veterans' Affairs

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Department of Veterans' Affairs should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

From: Stuart McCarthy

Delivered

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

A recent media release from the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) calls for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to fund research studies examining the long term adverse health effects of the quinoline anti-malarial drug mefloquine:

"We recognise the ongoing suffering of veterans who were prescribed mefloquine whilst serving in the ADF, and request that DVA fund a suitable study to determine the long term effect of mefloquine use."[1]

During a 2015 radio interview, RSL medical consultant Dr Rod Bain recognised the adverse effects of mefloquine on military veterans and their families, and stated that the RSL was endeavouring to fund its own research.[2]

I hereby request to be provided with documents held by DVA relating to discussions with the RSL and/or RSL funded research institutions on the subject of research into the adverse effects of mefloquine, including but not limited to:

a. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, or briefings between DVA officials and the RSL (including RSL state branches).

b. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, or briefings between DVA officials, the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) and/or the University of Queensland.

c. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, briefings or text messages between DVA officials and Mr Stewart Cameron (President, RSL Queensland).

d. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, briefings or text messages between DVA officials and Professor John Pearn (University of Queensland and GMRF).

e. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, briefings or text messages between DVA officials and Dr Graeme Killer (former DVA principal medical advisor and RSL life member).

f. Minutes of meetings between DVA and RSL representatives, and documents discussed during those meetings, including but not limited to the Ex Service Organisations Round Table (ESORT) and private meetings.

Yours faithfully,

Stuart McCarthy

References:

1. RSL media release, Mefloquine, 15 September 2017. http://rslnational.org/wp-content/upload...

2. ABC PM, Mefloquine: RSL backs veterans' calls for review over use of controversial anti-malaria drug, 22 December 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-17/so...

Link to this

From: Stuart McCarthy

Delivered

Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,

Could you please provide an update on the progress of this FOI request?

Yours faithfully,

Stuart McCarthy

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of Veterans' Affairs

Dear Mr McCarthy

Freedom of Information Request: FOI 18187

I refer to your request for access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), seeking access to certain documents relating to discussions with the RSL regarding research into the adverse effects of mefloquine.

Background

On 20 September 2017 you sought access to:

I hereby request to be provided with documents held by DVA relating to discussions with the RSL and/or RSL funded research institutions on the subject of research into the adverse effects of mefloquine, including but not limited to:

a. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, or briefings between DVA officials and the RSL (including RSL state branches).

b. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, or briefings between DVA officials, the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) and/or the University of Queensland.

c. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, briefings or text messages between DVA officials and Mr Stewart Cameron (President, RSL Queensland).

d. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, briefings or text messages between DVA officials and Professor John Pearn (University of Queensland and GMRF).

e. Emails, minutes, letters, memos, briefings or text messages between DVA officials and Dr Graeme Killer (former DVA principal medical advisor and RSL life member).

f. Minutes of meetings between DVA and RSL representatives, and documents discussed during those meetings, including but not limited to the Ex Service Organisations Round Table (ESORT) and private meetings.

Notice of intention to refuse

I, Vicki Guthrie, Assistant Director, Information Law, Legal Services & Assurance, am an officer authorised by the Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (the Department) to make decisions about access to documents in the possession of the Department in accordance with section 23(1) of the FOI Act.

This is a notice of an intention to refuse access to the documents you have requested because a ‘practical refusal reason’ exists under section 24(1) of the FOI Act. I am issuing this notice under section 24AB(2) of the FOI Act.

The practical refusal reason applicable to your request is that the work involved in processing your request would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the Department from its operations as specified in section 24AA(1)(a)(i) of the FOI Act due to its size and complexity.

Under section 24AA(2) of the FOI Act, the agency must have regard to the resources that would have to be used for:
• identifying, locating or collating the documents within the filing system of the agency;
• 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 examining the document or consulting with any person or body in relation to the request);
• making a copy or an edited copy, of the document; and
• notifying any interim or final decision on the request.

I consider that all of the above factors have a bearing on your request. The reasons why a practical refusal reason exists in relation to your request are set out below.

Why I intend to refuse your request

Request is substantial

Your request seeks access to “documents held by DVA relating to discussions with the RSL and/or RSL funded research institutions on the subject of research into the adverse effects of mefloquine”. The scope of your request is extensive and potentially captures a large number of documents.

In order to identify the documents falling within scope of your request, the Department would be required to undertake searches of all of its documents relating to discussions with the RSL in order to identify those that include discussions regarding research into the adverse effects of mefloquine. The department meets with representatives of the RSL across Australia many times each year and often discusses a range of issues during the meetings. It is not possible to identify the documents falling within scope of your request without examining the records of these meetings and discussions to establish whether they included discussion of research into the adverse effects of mefloquine.

Furthermore, subparagraphs (a) – (f) of your request also potentially capture a range of correspondence, memos, briefings and text messages between the Department and the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation, the University of Queensland, Mr Stewart Cameron, Professor John Pearn and Dr Killer. This expands the scope of your request considerably beyond documents “relating to discussions with the RSL and/or RSL funded research institutions” to include any communication with these bodies and individuals relating to the adverse effects of mefloquine.

Searching for documents and reviewing each potentially relevant document would require the Department to review a very large number of documents and would require many hours of decision making time. Processing your request would also require the Department to undertake consultation with third parties including the RSL. To do this would divert the resources away from the Department’s other activities.

Request is unreasonable

For the purpose of providing this notice, I have considered whether the substantial resource burden would be unreasonable. Undertaking the searches required to identify the documents falling within scope of your request, and the subsequent decision making time required would be an unreasonable burden for a single FOI request, taking into account the need to process multiple requests at any given time, and the impact this would have on responding to other FOI applicants.

I have concluded the request as it currently stands is unreasonable, as well as substantial (as outlined above).

What you should do?

You can revise the request in a form that would remove the ground for refusal. Please note that even if you do modify your request, it is possible that a practical refusal reason under subsection 24AA(1)(a)(i) may still exist or the Department may need further time to process your revised request – this will depend on the terms of your final request. As far as is reasonably practicable, we are happy to provide you with further information to assist you in making your request in such a form that removes the practical refusal ground.

If you are able to pinpoint the specific documents within your request, or clarify more particularly the information you are seeking, that would assist. In particular, you may wish to consider restricting your request to:
• a particular date range,
• correspondence between particular individuals or
• identifying a particular research project that is of interest to you.

Please note you have 14 days from the date you receive this notice to either:
• withdraw the request
• make a revised request
• indicate that you do not wish to revise the request.

If you do not respond in one of these ways within 14 days the request will be taken to have been withdrawn pursuant to section 24AB(7) of the FOI Act. If you indicate you do not wish to revise your request, the Department will proceed to make a decision on whether to refuse the request on resource grounds under section 24(1).

Please note under section 24AB(8) of the FOI Act, the time for processing your FOI requests is suspended from the day you receive this notice until the day you do one of the things listed above.

If you would like to revise your request or have any questions, please contact me using the details listed below.

Regards

Vicki Guthrie
Assistant Director
Information Law
Legal Services & Assurance Branch
Department of Veterans’ Affairs | www.dva.gov.au

show quoted sections

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Veterans' Affairs only: