Documents relating to legal advice and court attendance for the Commonwealth Ministers of Health, Human Services and Assistant to the Treasurer summoned before the Victorian Supreme Court

Richard Smith made this Freedom of Information request to Attorney-General's Department

The request was partially successful.

From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Dear Attorney-General's Department,

In June 2017, three Commonwealth Government Ministers, namely the Health Minister, Human Services Minister and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer were called to appear in two separate hearings before the Victorian Supreme Court to answer a possible criminal charge of Contempt of Court for reported comments that the Ministers had previously confirmed on the public record that they had made.

At the second hearing, one of the judges said "It should not have come to this, namely two court hearings...

But for the apologies and retractions we would have referred ... the ministers ... for prosecution for Contempt of Court."

As three Ministers were unable to attend the hearings personally, being immune from appearing as per the Parliamentary Privileges Act, the Commonwealth Solicitor-General appeared on their behalf.

The personal comments of these Ministers, and their initial refusal to apologise to the court has led to the taxpayer incurring legal costs to prepare for and appear at these two hearings.

Accordingly, I hereby request the following Government Information documents which I consider to be of great public importance:

a) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred representing the Health Minister in preparation for, and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16 June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

b) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred representing the Human Services Minister in preparation for, and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16 June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

c) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred representing the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer in preparation for, and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16 June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

d) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision of legal services representing the Health Minister immediately following the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation for, and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 23 June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

e) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision of legal services representing the Human Services Minister immediately following the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation for, and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 23 June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc); and

f) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision of legal services representing the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer immediately following the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation for, and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 23 June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

If this can be answered as informal request, please do so.

Otherwise, please proceed with this as a formal request under the Freedom of Information principles & framework, i.e. the Freedom of Information Act 1982 & other associated guidelines and regulations.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Smith

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From: Whitcombe, Courtney
Attorney-General's Department

UNCLASSIFIED

9 August 2017

Mr Richard Smith

By email: Richard Smith <[1][FOI #3751 email]>

 

Dear Mr Smith,

Freedom of Information Request

I refer to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI
Act) for access to documents concerning legal advice and court appearances
for the Minister for Health, Minister for Human Services, and the
Assistant Minister to the Treasurer. I have taken your request to be for:

a) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred
representing the Health Minister in preparation for, and during the
hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16 June 2017,
(including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls,
fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

 

b) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred
representing the Human Services Minister in preparation for, and during
the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16 June 2017,
(including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls,
fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

 

c) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred
representing the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer in preparation for,
and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16
June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters,
phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals
etc);

 

d) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision
of legal services representing the Health Minister immediately following
the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation for, and during the
hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 23 June 2017,
(including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls,
fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

 

e) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision
of legal services representing the Human Services Minister immediately
following the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation for, and
during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 23 June
2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters,
phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals
etc); and

 

f) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision
of legal services representing the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer
immediately following the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation
for, and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday
23 June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters,
phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals
etc);’

 

If you disagree with this interpretation of your request, please let me
know as soon as possible.

We received your request on 28 July 2017 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 28 August 2017. The period
of 30 days may be extended if we need to consult third parties or for
other reasons. We will advise you if this happens.

It is the usual practice of the department to not disclose the names and
contact details of junior officers of the department and other government
agencies, where that personal information is contained in documents within
the scope of a request.  The names and contact details of senior officers
will generally be disclosed.  We will take it that you agree to the
removal of junior officers’ personal information unless you advise that
you would like us to consider releasing that information as part of the
documents you have requested.

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log
[2]http://www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtection...,
subject to certain exceptions. (For example, personal information will not
be published where this would be unreasonable.)

We will contact you using the email address you provided. Please advise if
you would prefer us to use an alternative means of contact.

If you have any questions, please contact [3][AGD request email].

Yours sincerely

 

Courtney

 

Courtney W

Freedom of Information and Privacy Section

Strategy and Delivery Division | Attorney-General’s Department

T: (02) 6141 6666 | E: [4][AGD request email]

 

 

 

 

 

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From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Dear Ms Whitcombe,

Thank you for your reply of 9 August 2017.

I refer to the assumption that my agreement will be forthcoming for the Department to apply its internal policy to its processing of my request for Government Information as it has indicated.

Regarding the Department's policy of excluding names and contact details of junior Departmental staff, while I recognise that this is a restriction to release of FOI documents over and above the requirements set out in the Act, on consideration of the Government Information subject to this request, I do not object to the Department's adherence to its internal policy in this case.

I will however raise an objection, if the reason for not releasing any documents identified to be in the scope of my request for Government Information solely rests on the fact that they contain names and contact details of junior Departmental staff.

I also note your intention to correspond to me via this email address. This is acceptable to me & I do not propose to use any alternative means to correspond with the Department regarding this request.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Smith

Link to this

From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department


Attachment image001.png
81K Download


UNCLASSIFIED

FOI17/142; 17/8681

 

25 August 2017

 

 

Mr Richard Smith

By email:  [1][FOI #3751 email]

 

 

Dear Mr Smith

 

Freedom of Information Request no. FOI17/142

 

I refer to your request for access to documents concerning legal advice
and court appearances for the Minister for Health, Minister for Human
Services, and the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, under the Freedom
of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).  As foreshadowed in the department’s
correspondence of 9 August 2017, the department is required to consult
with third parties before making a decision in relation to a request where
documents within the scope of the request contain personal information
(section 27A of the FOI Act).

 

I can confirm that the scope of your request covers documents which
contain personal information and the department is required to consult
with third parties in this regard.

The consultation mechanism under section 27A applies when we believe the
person concerned may wish to contend that the requested documents are
exempt (or partially exempt) because their release would unreasonably
disclose personal information. We will take into account any comments we
receive but the final decision about whether to grant access to the
documents you have requested rests with the department.

For this reason, the period for processing your request has been extended
by 30 days in order to allow our agency time to consult with the
Queensland Government and third parties (section 15(6) of the FOI Act). 
The processing period for your request will now end on 24 September 2017.

 

More information about exemptions under the FOI Act is available in Fact
Sheet 8 on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s
website:
[2]http://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-inform....

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Case Manager

Freedom of Information and Privacy Section | Strategy and Delivery
Division

Attorney-General's Department | 3 - 5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
(: (02) 6141 3329  *: [3][AGD request email]

[4]2586 Indigenous signature block NEW

 

 

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Privacy Collection Notice

When you make a request for documents or an inquiry about privacy matters,
the Attorney-General s Department will only collect your personal
information where it is reasonably necessary for, or directly related to,
our functions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 or the Privacy Act
1988. We may collect your name, email address and telephone number so that
we can contact you about your request under the Freedom of Information Act
for access to documents or access to, or correction of, personal
information; or a complaint you have made or your request for access to,
or correction of, personal information under the Privacy Act. If your
request concerns your personal information, we will collect the minimum
amount of evidence necessary to verify your identity. The handling of your
personal information is protected by the Privacy Act 1988 and our privacy
policy is available at http://www.ag.gov.au/Pages/Privacystatem....
If you have an enquiry or complaint about your privacy, please contact the
Privacy Contact Officer on 02 6141 2660 or via e-mail [email address].

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Link to this

From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department

UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr Smith,

Freedom of Information request - FOI 17/142

 

I refer to your request for access to documents concerning legal advice
and court appearances for the Minister for Health, Minister for Human
Services, and the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer. under the Freedom
of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). 

I’d like to take this opportunity to request a short extension of time to
process this request. The department is now in the final stages of
preparing a response to your request. However, to enable us to provide a
well-reasoned and well-managed decision, we would be grateful if you would
consider agreeing to a short extension of time for a decision to be
finalised, in accordance with s15AA(a) of the FOI Act.

 

Should you agree to the extension, the due date for the department’s
decision will be 6 October 2017.

 

If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to
contact me on the details below.

 

Courtney W

Freedom of Information and Privacy Section

Strategy and Delivery Division | Attorney-General’s Department

T: (02) 6141 6666 | E: [1][AGD request email]

 

 

show quoted sections

Privacy Collection Notice

When you make a request for documents or an inquiry about privacy matters,
the Attorney-General’s Department will only collect your personal
information where it is reasonably necessary for, or directly related to,
our functions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 or the Privacy Act
1988. We may collect your name, email address and telephone number so that
we can contact you about your request under the Freedom of Information Act
for access to documents or access to, or correction of, personal
information; or a complaint you have made or your request for access to,
or correction of, personal information under the Privacy Act. If your
request concerns your personal information, we will collect the minimum
amount of evidence necessary to verify your identity. The handling of your
personal information is protected by the Privacy Act 1988 and our privacy
policy is available at http://www.ag.gov.au/Pages/Privacystatem....
If you have an enquiry or complaint about your privacy, please contact the
Privacy Contact Officer on 02 6141 2660 or via e-mail [email address].

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Verity Pane left an annotation ()

It’s poor form indeed to seek consent to an extension, after an agency has already helped itself to extensions without consent, AFTER the expiry of previous extension (and not before). If an agency fails to make a decision within the applicable statutory time limit, including within an extension period it avails itself to, this results in a deemed refusal decision situation.

Agencies should always seek consent for extensions BEFORE a statutory period expires.

Link to this

Verity Pane left an annotation ()

Where an agency fails to make a decision before an FOI statutory deadline expires, the FOI decision is classified as a “deemed refusal”. For benefit, I have reproduced the relevant sections of the Australian Information Commissioner’s s 93A Guidelines to agencies

3.131 A ‘deemed refusal’ occurs if the time for making a decision on a request for access to a document has expired and an applicant has not been given a notice of decision. If this occurs, the principal officer of the agency or the minister is taken to have personally made a decision refusing to give access to the document on the last day of the ‘initial decision’ period (s 15AC).

3.134 The consequence of a deemed refusal is that an applicant may apply for IC review (s 54L(2)(a)).

3.135 Where a decision is deemed to have been made before an initial decision is made, the agency or minister continues to have an obligation to make a decision on the FOI request. This obligation continues until any IC review of the deemed decision is finalised.

You don’t have to apply for Internal Review first, before seeking IC Review, for a deemed refusal.

Link to this

From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Dear Ms Whitcombe,

RE: Freedom of Information request - FOI 17/142

Thank you for your reply of 26 September 2017.

I have considered the points raised in your letter requesting a further extension to the processing of my request for Government Information. I note that the Department’s response of 26 September has exceeded the due date of previous extension, as described by s15AC of the Act.

I am assuming that the Department, in good faith, has been busy searching for and collating the information relating to my request for Government Information both during the initial 30 day period and also the period of extension that the Department advised me that they required in the letter of 25 August.

In the same vein of acting in good faith, as it appears that the Department is close to issuing a decision, I do not wish to add a further administrative burden on the Department by requesting a review of what satisfies the definition of a “Deemed Refusal”.

I note the Department’s stated desire to shortly provide “a well-reasoned and well-managed decision” and hope that the word “well” in this phrase refers to the Department’s decision furthering the spirit of the Act, namely “The Parliament intends … to promote Australia's representative democracy by … increasing scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government's activities”.

I therefore, in good faith, consequently consent to this additional extension, while reserving the avenues of recourse available to me as per s15AC of the Act.

I look forward to hearing from the Department on or before the 6 October.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Smith

Link to this

From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department


Attachment Signed letter 4 Oct.pdf
617K Download View as HTML


UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr Smith,

 

Please find attached a signed decision letter with respect to your below
Freedom of Information request.

 

Please feel free to contact the Attorney-General’s Department FOI unit
(details below) if you have any queries.

 

Kind regards,

 

Courtney

Freedom of Information and Parliamentary Section

Strategy and Delivery Division | Attorney-General’s Department

T: (02) 6141 6666 | E: [1][AGD request email]

 

Dear Attorney-General's Department,

 

In June 2017, three Commonwealth Government Ministers, namely the Health
Minister, Human Services Minister and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer
were called to appear in two separate hearings before the Victorian
Supreme Court to answer a possible criminal charge of Contempt of Court
for reported comments that the Ministers had previously confirmed on the
public record that they had made.

 

At the second hearing, one of the judges said "It should not have come to
this, namely two court hearings...

 

But for the apologies and retractions we would have referred ... the
ministers ... for prosecution for Contempt of Court."

 

As three Ministers were unable to attend the hearings personally, being
immune from appearing as per the Parliamentary Privileges Act, the
Commonwealth Solicitor-General appeared on their behalf.

 

The personal comments of these Ministers, and their initial refusal to
apologise to the court has led to the taxpayer incurring legal costs to
prepare for and appear at these two hearings.

 

Accordingly, I hereby request the following Government Information
documents which I consider to be of great public importance:

 

a) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred
representing the Health Minister in preparation for, and during the
hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16 June 2017,
(including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls,
fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

 

b) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred
representing the Human Services Minister in preparation for, and during
the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16 June 2017,
(including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls,
fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

 

c) Documents detailing the cost of provision of legal services incurred
representing the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer in preparation for,
and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 16
June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters,
phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals
etc);

 

d) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision
of legal services representing the Health Minister immediately following
the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation for, and during the
hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 23 June 2017,
(including all Solicitor-General communications, letters, phonecalls,
fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals etc);

 

e) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision
of legal services representing the Human Services Minister immediately
following the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation for, and
during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 23 June
2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters,
phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals
etc); and

 

f) Documents detailing the cost incurred by the Commonwealth for provision
of legal services representing the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer
immediately following the first appearance on 16 June 2017 in preparation
for, and during the hearing before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday
23 June 2017, (including all Solicitor-General communications, letters,
phonecalls, fees, transport including commonwealth car or hire cars, meals
etc);

 

If this can be answered as informal request, please do so.

 

Otherwise, please proceed with this as a formal request under the Freedom
of Information principles & framework, i.e. the Freedom of Information Act
1982 & other associated guidelines and regulations.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Richard Smith

 

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Please use this email address for all replies to this request:

[2][FOI #3751 email]

 

Is [3][AGD request email] the wrong address for Freedom of Information requests
to Attorney-General&#x27;s Department? If so, please contact us using this
form:

[4]https://www.righttoknow.org.au/change_re...

 

This request has been made by an individual using Right to Know. This
message and any reply that you make will be published on the internet.
More information on how Right to Know works can be found at:

[5]https://www.righttoknow.org.au/help/offi...

 

If you find this service useful as an FOI officer, please ask your web
manager to link to us from your organisation's FOI page.

 

 

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show quoted sections

Privacy Collection Notice

When you make a request for documents or an inquiry about privacy matters,
the Attorney-General s Department will only collect your personal
information where it is reasonably necessary for, or directly related to,
our functions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 or the Privacy Act
1988. We may collect your name, email address and telephone number so that
we can contact you about your request under the Freedom of Information Act
for access to documents or access to, or correction of, personal
information; or a complaint you have made or your request for access to,
or correction of, personal information under the Privacy Act. If your
request concerns your personal information, we will collect the minimum
amount of evidence necessary to verify your identity. The handling of your
personal information is protected by the Privacy Act 1988 and our privacy
policy is available at http://www.ag.gov.au/Pages/Privacystatem....
If you have an enquiry or complaint about your privacy, please contact the
Privacy Contact Officer on 02 6141 2660 or via e-mail [email address].

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

References

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From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Dear Attorney-General's Department,

RE: FOI 17/142

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Attorney-General's Department's handling of my FOI request 'Documents relating to legal advice and court attendance for the Commonwealth Ministers of Health, Human Services and Assistant to the Treasurer summoned before the Victorian Supreme Court'.

I have considered your letter of the 3 October refusing to release the three documents you have identified as falling within the scope of my request for Government Information.

I believe the Department has made an error in assessing my request for Government Information and I request an internal review to consider my request.

Below I provide an analysis of the points made by the Department in their response of 3 October to assist the Internal Reviewer.

Exemption - Legal Professional Privilege

I recognise that the concept of legal professional privilege is important to our legal system and to the proper and fair administration of justice.

However the Act does allow an agency the discretion to be able to create new documents containing a summary of information from information held by the agency, i.e. as per s17(1)(c) of the Act.

As my request is primarily aimed at the release of the cost to the taxpayer of the legal advice and representation, then this numerical data could be extracted and summarised for release without affecting legal professional privilege.

Indeed the information regarding the quantum of costs that I am seeking in my FOI request is no different to the information that would be provided to a court as the result in any legal proceedings where legal costs are awarded to one of the parties. This is able to be commonly undertaken in legal cases without impacting Legal Professional Privilege.

Therefore in this case, I do not believe that the Legal Professional Privilege exemption has been properly considered. I also believe that it is being improperly advanced as a valid reason to prevent the release of the cost of legal advice and representation of these three Ministers of the Crown.

Public interest conditional exemption – personal privacy

In page 4 of your letter of 3 October, the Department has relied on the fact that the monetary amount of the claims for reimbursement for legal advice and representation is not publically known to contend that the release of this information would be an unreasonable disclosure of private information.

The subject of my request was for the details of the cost of legal advice and representation, not any other personal details of the three Ministers of the Crown.

As any other personal information could be redacted, the release of the costs would not be an unreasonable release of personal information.

The four “Public Interest” factors against disclosure

I now turn to the four “Public Interest” factors that the Department has identified and relied on in refusing disclosure.

These are:

1. Could reasonably be expected to prejudice the protection of an individuals rights to privacy (6.29(a) of the FOI guidelines)
2. Could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of an individual or a group of individuals (6.29(k) of the FOI guidelines)
3. Could reasonably be expected to prejudice an agency’s ability to obtain confidential information (6.29(d) of the FOI guidelines)
4. Could reasonably be expected to prejudice an agency’s ability to obtain similar information in the future (6.29(i) of the FOI guidelines)

I detail below why I require a review of the Department’s consideration and assessment of each of these factors.

1. Could reasonably be expected to prejudice the protection of an individuals rights to privacy (6.29(a) of the FOI guidelines)

Considering that the three individuals subject to this FOI request are Ministers of the Crown, the normal requirement for the right to privacy would not apply. This is particularly the case in the circumstances of the court case, as it resulted from the three Ministers of the Crown making public statements.

The referenced subsection 6.29(a) of the FOI guidelines also, while not being exhaustive, list three examples protection of the individual’s right to privacy. These are, a minor child, someone who is deceased and any information of a public servant which would “reveal information about their private disposition or personal life”. Clearly that is not the case here.

I therefore do not consider that there is any merit in the view that disclosing how much it cost taxpayers to provide legal advice & representation to these three Ministers of the Crown could be reasonably be expected to prejudice the protection of these particular individuals rights to privacy.

2. Could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of an individual or a group of individuals (6.29(k) of the FOI guidelines)

In this case, disclosing the legal bills of these three Ministers of the Crown will not materially harm their interests, aside possibly from their political interests as the result of public opinion.

However disclosure relating to the political interests of these three elected Members of Parliament directly relates to one of the aims of the Act, namely "to promote Australia’s representative democracy by increasing scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of government activities".

In your letter of 3 October, you have not provided any evidence of how these Ministers of the Crown’s interests will be harmed.

I therefore do not consider that there is any merit in the view that disclosing how much it cost taxpayers to provide legal advice & representation to these three Ministers of the Crown could be reasonably be expected to harm the interests of these particular individuals.

3. Could reasonably be expected to prejudice an agency’s ability to obtain confidential information (6.29(d) of the FOI guidelines)

In your letter of 3 October, you have not provided any evidence of how the Department’s ability to obtain confidential information in the future would be harmed by the release of the monetary amount of these particular claims.

The disclosure of the Commonwealth’s reimbursement of claims by members of parliament as per their Parliamentary Entitlements is by its nature a matter of public interest. The number of and value of these claims should be on the public record. If the documentation submitted to substantiate the claim does provide some confidential information (for example medical or personal information) then the Department should be able to manage this through redaction of the confidential information and by partial release to allow the public to have oversight that that Department is discharging its duties appropriately.

I therefore do not consider that there is any merit in the view that disclosing how much it cost taxpayers to provide legal advice & representation to these three Ministers of the Crown could be reasonably be expected to prejudice an agency’s ability to obtain confidential information.

4. Could reasonably be expected to prejudice an agency’s ability to obtain similar information in the future (6.29(i) of the FOI guidelines)

I find it hard to believe that the Department’s administration of reimbursements as part of parliamentary entitlements is likely to be impacted by the disclosure of the monetary value of these three claims.

Indeed, previous publicity & public comment on members of parliament accessing allowances and other entitlements for travel, helicopters and accommodation has not adversely impacted the Commonwealth’s ability to administer the payment & reimbursement of Parliamentary Entitlements.

In your letter of 3 October, you have not provided any evidence of how the Department’s ability to obtain invoices, receipts and dockets in the future would be harmed by the release of the monetary amount of these particular claims.

I therefore do not consider that there is any merit in the view that disclosing how much it cost taxpayers to provide legal advice & representation to these three Ministers of the Crown could be reasonably be expected to harm the interests of these particular individuals.

In summary, I do not find any merit in the four points against public disclosure of the costs of legal advice and representation provided to the three Ministers of the Crown that where the subject of my request for Government Information. I contend that the Department’s incorrect reliance on these four points as per my reasons above has caused it to err in assessing my request for the release of Government Information.

Right to Information

Finally, I contend that the Department, in refusing to release the identified documents is acting contrary to the spirit & aim of the Act, namely s3

Section 3 of the Act states:
“The Parliament also intends that functions and powers given by this Act are to be performed and exercised, as far as possible, to facilitate and promote public access to information, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost.”

In refusing to release details of the cost to taxpayers of provision of legal advice and representation, the Department is not discharging its legislated duty to “facilitate and promote public access to information, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost”.

To assist the Internal Reviewer, a full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...

I look forward to hearing from the Department regarding my request for an Internal Review of the handling of my request for Government Information of 28 August 2017.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Smith

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From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Dear FOI Requests,

RE: FOI 17/142

I refer to my request of 12 October 2017 for an internal review of the Department's Decision of 4 October 2017.

To date I have not had any acknowledgement of my request nor any update from the Department.

Please provide an update as to the processing of the Internal Review of my FOI request FOI 17/142.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Smith

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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department

UNCLASSIFIED
FOI 17/142

Dear Mr Smith

I refer to your email below.

I apologise for the delay in acknowledging your request.

We received your application on 13 October 2017 and the 30 day statutory period for completing the internal review commenced from the day after that date. You should therefore expect a decision from us by 10 November 2017.

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be published online on our disclosure log http://www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtection..., subject to certain exceptions. (For example, personal information will not be published where this would be unreasonable.)

We will contact you using the email address you provided. If you have any questions, please contact the foi unit at [AGD request email] or telephone (02) 6141 6666.

Regards

FOI Officer

Freedom of Information and Privacy Section  |  Strategy and Delivery Division Attorney-General’s Department
T: (02) 6141 3062 | E: [email address]

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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department

UNCLASSIFIED
Dear Mr Smith

I refer to your FOI request below.

I apologise for the delay in sending you a decision, and advise that we will be doing so at the earliest opportunity.

Regards

FOI Case Officer

Freedom of Information and Parliamentary Section Strategy and Delivery Division | Attorney-General’s Department
T: (02) 6141 6666 | E: [AGD request email]

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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department


Attachment Richard SMITH IR decision letter.pdf
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Attachment Richard SMITH Schedule of documents FOI17142.pdf
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Attachment Richard SMITH Attachments A B C.pdf
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Attachment Document 1 Redacted.PDF.pdf
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Attachment Document 2 Redacted.PDF.pdf
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Attachment Document 3 Redacted.PDF.pdf
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UNCLASSIFIED
FOI17/142; 17/8681

Dear Mr Smith

Please find attached a decision letter, schedule of documents and documents, and Attachments A, B and C, in relation to your request for internal review of the matter FOI17/142.

If you have any queries please contact the FOI unit on the contact details below.

Yours sincerely

FOI Case Manager

Freedom of Information and Parliamentary Section Strategy and Delivery Division | Attorney-General’s Department
T: (02) 6141 6666 | E: [AGD request email]

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