Dear Federal Court of Australia,
In an FOI decision that B Henderson of the Federal Court made on 22 June 2022, the FOI Officer stated that after 12 June 2020, five people have been promoted to SES Band 1 positions in the Federal Court.
According to B Henderson, all five people were Executive Level employees prior to promotion and all five were ongoing, full time APS employees before their respective promotions to SES Band 1 positions.
The SES Band 1 positions that these 5 APS employees were promoted to were:
i) General Counsel;
ii) District Registrar;
iii) National Judicial Registrar;
iv) Chief Information Officer; and
v) Chief Information Officer.
B Henderson's decision can be seen here - https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d...
I have pored over the Public Service Gazette and, unlike the SES Band 1 General Counsel role that Scott Tredwell was promoted to (www.apsjobs.gov.au/s/outcome-details?Id=a062P000000NLl1QAG), I have not been able to find a vacancy notification for an SES Band 1 "District Registrar" role that fits the bill, or a promotion notice for a person who was promoted to the SES Band 1 "District Registrar" role.
Under the FOI Act I request:
a) the vacancy notification for the SES Band 1 District Registrar role published in the Public Service Gazette;
b) the position description for the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
c) any and all classification evaluation documentation for the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
d) the record of the analysis leading to the task and job design of the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
e) the record of the supporting reasons for the classification decision, including reference to the comparisons made with formal standards (e.g. the Australian Public Service Commissioner's work level standards);
f) the assessment of the resource impact of the creation or reclassification of the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
g) the evidence that there was a need for the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
h) the job application of the Executive Level, ongoing, full time, APS employee who was selected for promotion to the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
i) the certification that the Australian Public Service Commissioner's representative issued following his or her participation in the selection process for the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
j) any and all correspondence between staff in the Federal Court and the Australian Public Service Commissioner's representative in relation to the selection process for the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
k) to the extent that the Australian Public Service Commissioner personally participated in the selection process for the SES Band 1 District Registrar role, any correspondence sent to the Australian Public Service Commissioner or his staff by staff members in the Federal Court in relation to his participation in the selection process for the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
l) the promotion notice published in the Public Service Gazette following the promotion of the full time, ongoing Executive Level APS employee who was selected for promotion to the SES Band 1 District Registrar role;
m) the record of decision (by a selection panel or otherwise) to select a full time, ongoing Executive Level APS employee for promotion to the SES Band 1 District Registrar role; and
n) the record of the reasons for decision (by a selection panel or otherwise) to select a full time, ongoing Executive Level APS employee for promotion to the SES Band 1 District Registrar role.
Please ensure that you address each of (a) - (m) discretely in your FOI decision letter so that the FOI decision is clearly articulated.
Documents can be sent to me by return email.
Please find attached correspondence from the Federal Court of Australia.
Please find attached correspondence from the Federal Court of Australia.
Federal Court of Australia
Dear FOI Officer,
Dear FOI Officer
I contest the recorded charges.
You say that it took 1.5 hours to search for the requested documents. While that may be the case, it is not appropriate to charge me for that time.
According to the FOI Guidelines:
An agency should ensure that the notice to an applicant of a charge fully explains and justifies the charge. Implicit in the ‘lowest reasonable cost’ objective is the requirement for sound record keeping so that an agency’s documents can be readily identified and found when an FOI request is received.
The documents that I have requested are, for the most part, documents that should be maintained in the relevant District Registrar’s APS employee file (please refer to the Administrative Functions Disposal Authority – Personnel Management issued by the authority of the Director General of the National Archives). To the extent that the documents requested in paragraphs c – g are located somewhere other than the District Registrar’s APS employee file, it is reasonable to assume that they would be located one with the other in a folio or file relating to the District Registrar role. The assumption is reasonable because such records should be maintained to ensure the integrity of the classifications and evaluations of roles in agencies (in particular, please refer to Part IV of the Australian Public Service Classification Guide, which was issued by the Australian Public Service Commission in the light of recommendations set out in the APS classification review, published in November 2012).
I think it would be reasonable to assume that it would have taken a few minutes (let’s say six minutes) to access the documents in the APS employee file and, if the documents referred to in paragraphs c – g are located somewhere other than the District Registrar’s APS employee file, then it would have taken a few more minutes (let’s say six minutes) to find that file and access the relevant documents. All up, I think it would be reasonable to say that it would have taken 12 minutes to access the relevant documents if they had been stored appropriately. The total search cost would come to $3.00.
According to the Guidelines:
Agencies and ministers should interpret the ‘lowest reasonable cost’ objective broadly in imposing any charge under the FOI Act. That is, an agency or minister should have regard to the lowest reasonable cost to the applicant, to the agency or minister, and the Commonwealth as a whole. Where the cost of calculating and collecting a charge might exceed the cost to the agency of processing the request, it may generally be more appropriate not to impose a charge.
Let it be conservatively assumed that the FOI Officer who prepared the charge estimate letter and the invoice is paid $40 per hour (including superannuation and leave entitlements). Let it be very generously assumed that it took the FOI Officer 6 minutes to:
a) calculate the charges to be requested;
b) prepare the charge estimate letter;
c) the invoice of deposit; and
d) dispatch the documents by email.
It would have cost the Commonwealth $4.00 for the FOI Officer to do that.
No explanation has been provided as to why it would take 7 hours to:
a) examine the documents retrieved;
b) prepare reasons for decision; and
c) prepare suitable for access.
Without an explanation, that 7 hour figure is simply capricious. It is hard to imagine why documents of the kinds requested would need any significant redaction or amendment. Most of the requested documents are documents that have nothing to do with individuals; they are evaluative documents about a District Registrar role. You have also not noted that any consultations will be required, which I find particularly interesting because I have requested copies of the records of decision and reasons for decision.
The cost of calculating and collecting the charge appears to exceed the cost to the agency of processing the request.
It seems to me that, 26 days after an anodyne request was made for a vacancy notification that cannot be located, and a promotion notice that does not appear to have been published, and a few other pertinent documents, an FOI Officer is desperately attempting to impede access to documents by imposing charges that cannot reasonably be sustained.
It is in the public interest to access the requested documents.
Take the vacancy notification for example. The entire Australian community has a right to apply for an SES Band 1 District Registrar role and if there was no vacancy notification published, then the entire Australian Community was denied the right to apply for that job and to be considered on their merits (please refer to Part 4, Subdivision B of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2022 (Cth) or Part 3, Subdivision B of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016 (Cth)). By implication, there is a public interest, which affects the entire Australian community, in knowing whether the law as to merit based selection in the Australian Public Service has been contravened, in as much as a vacancy in the Federal Court has not been notified to the Australian community and has been filled without giving all members of the Australian community an opportunity to apply and be considered for that role on their merits.
Is the FOI Officer concerned that more examples of patronage in the Federal Court might come to light if a decision maker in the Federal Court is forced to admit that no vacancy notification exists for the District Registrar role (please refer to “Untried lawyers score key positions”, published in The Australian on 8 February 2022)? Is the FOI Officer concerned that more examples of patronage in the Federal Court might come to light if a decision maker in the Federal Court is forced to admit that other requested documents do not exist?