FOI14139 Decision

Ben Fairless made this Freedom of Information request to Attorney-General's Department

The request was successful.

From: Ben Fairless

Delivered

Dear Attorney-General's Department,

I request, under the Freedom of Information Act:
- A copy of the Decision Letter sent to me on the 6 August 2014
in relation to FOI request FOI14139

This request is subject to the following exemptions:
- I do not require the document to be signed

Access to be provided in specified format
--------------------------------------------
I note that the s20(2) of the Freedom of Information Act states that:

"Subject to subsection (3) and to section 22, where the applicant has requested access in a particular form, access shall be given in that form."

I therefore request that:
- Access be provided in a format that is readable by Microsoft Word

Yours faithfully,

Ben Fairless

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From: FOI Requests
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If you wish to lodge a request for access to documents under the Freedom
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Freedom of Information and Privacy Section.

 

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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
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or correction of, personal information under the Privacy Act. If your
request concerns your personal information, we will collect the minimum
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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department


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UNCLASSIFIED

14/10787

 

11 August 2014

 

 

Mr Ben Fairless

Email: [1][FOI #732 email]

 

Dear Mr Fairless

Freedom of Information Request no. FOI14/160

 

I refer to your request for access to documents relating to a decision
sent to you under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. I have taken your
request to be for:

A copy of the Decision Letter sent to me on the 6 August 2014  in relation
to FOI request FOI14/139.

 

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

We received your request on 7 August 2014 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 6 September 2014. 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 release the names and
contact details of junior officers of the Department and other government
agencies, where that personal information is contained in documents within
scope of a request.  The names and contact details of senior officers will
generally be released.  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 the FOI Section by email [3][AGD request email].

 

 

Kind Regards

 

FOI Contact Officer

 

Freedom of Information and Privacy Section | Office of Corporate Counsel

Attorney-General's Department | 3 - 5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
*: [4][AGD request email]

 

[5]2586 Indigenous signature block NEW

 

 

 

 

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From: Ben Fairless

Delivered

Dear FOI Contact Officer,

Thanks for the Acknowledgement. You haven't included the request that the documents be provided in Microsoft Word format. Can you confirm that the documents will be provided in the format requested?

Yours sincerely,

Ben Fairless

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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department

UNCLASSIFIED
Good morning Mr Fairless

I can confirm that the Department has taken your request to be for:
a copy of the Decision Letter sent to me on the 6 August 2014 in relation to FOI request FOI14/139 in Microsoft Word format.

Regards
Jo

FOI Contact Officer
Freedom of Information and Privacy Section | Office of Corporate Counsel Attorney-General's Department | 3 - 5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
*: [AGD request email]

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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department


Attachment Signed decision letter to applicant FO Mr Ben Fairless Right to Kn....pdf
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UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr Fairless

 

Freedom of Information request - FOI14/160

 

I refer to your request for access to documents under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). Specifically, you sought access to:

A copy of the Decision Letter sent to me on the 6 August 2014  in relation
to FOI request FOI14139.

 

In your request, you advised that you did not require a signed copy of the
decision letter and would like a copy that is readable in Microsoft Word.

 

Please find attached a copy of the decision in this matter.

 

Regards

Jo

 

FOI Contact Officer

Freedom of Information and Privacy Section | Office of Corporate Counsel

Attorney-General's Department | 3 - 5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
*: [1][AGD request email]

 

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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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From: Ben Fairless

Delivered

Dear Attorney-General's Department,

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 'FOI14139 Decision'.

In this request, I have asked for a copy of a document in Microsoft Word format.

The Department is required to comply with s.20(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, which states, in part:
"where the applicant has requested access in a particular form, access shall be given in that form".

The fact that access to the document has been provided (as required by s.20(1) of the Act in another form is irrelevant.

I also reserve my right to make a formal complaint about the Decision Maker. This decision is an attempt to frustrate the process and is inconsistent with the objectives of the FOI Act.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/f...

Yours faithfully,

Ben Fairless

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Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

I do not like to be a messenger carrying the bad news but I think, Mr Fairless, that you do not have a right interpretation of section 20.

Please read paragraphs 118 and 119 of the decision in QVFT and Secretary, Department of Immigration and Citizenship [2011] AATA 763 (28 October 2011) (http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodi.... A person can see that the Tribunal says, " 'Form' in this context refers back to the forms specified in s 20(1)(a) – (d), not to different 'formats' of electronically produced and stored documents such as Microsoft Word and PDF formats.'

I feel that this is very unfortunate because many applicants on Right to Know would, I think, prefer your interpretation to the AAT interpretation. But it is an interpretation that the FOI Officer at AGD can rely on as authoritative and binding until it is turned over by the Federal Court of Australia.

With this, there will, I think be two consequences. Your application for internal review will make no change to the original decision. The other consequence is that a formal complaint would also have no good result because the FOI Commissioner must follow the AAT decision.

If you can say a good argument for why the AAT decision is not relevant to your application for a Word format document, then it would be very good to see; it might be applicable to other cases and very useful.

Jeg håber, at jeg har lavet en fejl.

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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department

UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr Fairless

Freedom of Information Request no. FOI14/160

 

I refer to your application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 for
internal review of the decision of the Department dated 26 August 2014. 

We received your application on 27 August 2014 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 26 September
2014.

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log
[1]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 Joannah Burley, FOI case manager, on 02 6141
6666 or by email [2][AGD request email].

Regards

Jo

 

FOI Contact Officer

Freedom of Information and Privacy Section | Office of Corporate Counsel

Attorney-General's Department | 3 - 5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
*: [3][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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3. mailto:[AGD request email]

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Daniel O'Connor left an annotation ()

Not entirely applicable in this instance as it's not the original request, but it would be interesting to see the consequences of a request for a document, and its embedded metadata.

The act defines a document as:

(v) any article on which information has been stored or recorded, either mechanically or electronically;

so things like track-changes (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-h... would be included in that, as well as authorship, creation dates, etc. (http://blogs.technet.com/b/heyscriptingg...

The most efficient and effective way for the department to provide you with the document+metadata is in its original form. A printed + rescanned copy or edited copy is unlikely to meet the metadata criteria; only the original/definitive source document or a verbatim electronic copy would.

Automated removal of the metadata would also likely fail a well worded request.

We *also* have a commitment from the AG in response to Sen. Ludlam, about complying with his legal obligations - http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/con... ; indicating a willingness to respond in a positive manner.

If nothing else, it would be an interesting test of the act's definition of document.

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Michael Cordover left an annotation ()

In relation to the interpretation of s 20, in particular by reference to QVFT v DIAC, I think it's important to read that decision carefully. It's clear the Tribunal's objection to interpreting s 20 "form" as referring to format is that the authority should not be required to produce a new document on the whim of an applicant.

However, where a document is in a particular format (e.g. MS Word), providing a PDF copy is itself the production of a new document. Producing it in the existing format (e.g. Word) is within the scope of a s 20 request: see Diamond v ACARA [2013] AICmr 57, [12]-[22].

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Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

Mr Cordove, this sounds like good news. So because I do not understand, I would be very pleased if you would say something more.

Do you mean that the decision in QVFT does not create an authority regarding the meaning of s 20? I can see that in the QVFT case a person would have had to create a new document but does that change how s20 must be read?

I searched for your name on Right to Know and I can read now that you made a similar reponse to my comment about QVFT in the past. Because I did not get email notification of annotations I did not see your other replies! Very regretable, but please teach ...

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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department


Attachment Signed decision letter FOI14160 Mr Ben Fairless Right to Know Austr....pdf
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Attachment FOI14160 Decision letter for FOI14139 in word.docx
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UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED

Good morning Mr Fairless

 

Freedom of Information request FOI14/160

 

I refer to your request for internal review of a decision of the
Department to refuse access to a version of the decision letter for
FOI14/139 in a format readable by Microsoft Word.

 

Please find attached the internal review decision in this matter and a
copy of the decision letter for FOI14/139 in Microsoft Word format.

 

Regards

Jo

 

FOI Contact Officer

Freedom of Information and Privacy Section | Office of Corporate Counsel

Attorney-General's Department | 3 - 5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600
*: [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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From: Ben Fairless

Delivered

Dear Maggie Jackson,

Thank you for deciding to release the original MS Word decision letter for FOI14139 outside of the FOI Act.

I disagree with you that there is no requirement under s.20 of the Freedom of Information Act to release the document. I would refer you to a recent decision (Diamond v ACARA [2013] AICmr 57, [12]-[22]) where the Information Commissioner makes it clear that where a document is in a particular format (e.g. MS Word), providing a PDF copy is itself the production of a new document. Producing it in the existing format (e.g. Word) is within the scope of a s 20 request.

I would also refer you to the Australian Human Rights Commission Website (https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/...

"The Commission’s advice, [is] that PDF cannot be regarded as a sufficiently accessible format to provide a user experience for a person with a disability that is equivalent to that available to a person without a disability...

... Organisations that publish documents only in PDF risk complaint under the DDA unless they make the content available in at least one additional format and in a manner that incorporates principles of accessible document design."

The Department advised when it receives a request via the Right to Know website that responses from requests made using Right to Know will be "published on the internet". The Department should therefore seek not to discriminate against visually impaired people (of which I count myself).

I would respectfully suggest that the Department not discriminate against visually impaired people who use free and accessible services to request information from their Government.

Yours sincerely,

Ben Fairless

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Alan Hilvert-Bruce left an annotation ()

Although I'm really late to this party, I noticed a quirk with this request.

The agreed scope as between Ben and AG's is:

"a copy of the Decision Letter sent to me on the 6 August 2014 in relation to FOI request FOI14/139 in Microsoft Word format."

Your argument Ben is that where a document is available in a certain format, and requested in that format, then it should be supplied to you as per section 20 FOI Act. I completely agree.

However your request is specifically seeking a document that was provided to you on 6 August 2014. The word document was not provided to you on this date, it is likely a signed PDF copy was instead.

As it was not provided to you, the request should technically return with a section 24A decision, documents do not exist.

This request could have run a bit smoother if one or both of the following happened:

1. The FOI officer recognised the above issue, informed Ben that the request was going to result with a 24A, and suggested that he amend his request to "the final draft of the decision in word form".

or

2. Ben either removed the qualification "provided to me on 6 August 2014" from the scope, or requested the final draft in word form.

If you want to get really picky, Ben's initial request did not actually request a word document, but a "format that is readable by Microsoft Word".

PDFs are readable by Microsoft Word, and if the original scope were kept, the PDF document would have perfectly satisfied the scope.

This request serves as a good example of why more work should be put into refining a scope early on in a request, and why you shouldn't overqualify your scope. There was no need for it to get to an internal review stage.

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