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FOI-2023-10082 - emails or other communications directed at all staff about the Royal Commission on the Robo-debt Scheme

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Dear Commonwealth Ombudsman,

According to the Commonwealth Ombudsman Disclosure Log, on 3 November 2023, the Ombudsman granted access to emails or other communications directed at all staff about the Royal Commission on the Robo-debt Scheme. The Commonwealth Ombudsman reference is FOI-2023-10082. A full disclosure was made of 3 documents and a partial disclosure was made of 10 documents.

Please grant access to the disclosed documents (3 fully disclosed and 10 partially disclosed) under the FOI Act by reply email.

Yours faithfully,

AJB

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

2 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Our ref: FOI-2024-10017

20 February 2024

AJB

Emailed to: [1][FOI #11044 email]

Dear AJB

Freedom of Information request – Acknowledgment

My sincere apologies for the delay in acknowledging your correspondence
dated 21 January 2024 to the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the
Office), in which you requested access to documents under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). As result of human error, your request was
not registered on our record-keeping software, and re-identified yesterday
through an audit of our Information Access inbox. I apologise for this
delay. Your request for documents was in the following terms:  

“According to the Commonwealth Ombudsman Disclosure Log, on 3 November
2023, the Ombudsman granted access to emails or other communications
directed at all staff about the Royal Commission on the Robo-debt Scheme.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman reference is FOI-2023-10082. A full disclosure
was made of 3 documents and a partial disclosure was made of 10 documents.

Please grant access to the disclosed documents (3 fully disclosed and 10
partially disclosed) under the FOI Act by reply email.”

I confirm I have identified the documents you have referred to in your
request. I can also confirm that we are making arrangements for 12 of the
relevant documents to be uploaded on the disclosure log. I can separately
provide those documents to you in response to your request.

However, one document has been determined as not appropriate for uploading
on the disclosure log as it is an autogenerated transcript of a recording
of an all-staff discussion, which due to misinterpretation of the words
spoken by the auto-generation technology, there are a significant number
of errors which are, in sections, quite distorting of the original
recording. The disclosure log requirement does not apply if publication of
that information would be ‘unreasonable’ (ss 11C(1)(c) and 11C(2) of the
FOI Act) including information covered by the Information Commissioner’s
Freedom of Information (Disclosure Log – Exempt Documents) Determination
2018. The Explanatory Statement accompanying the Information
Commissioner’s Determination says:

The Commissioner … recognises that an agency or Minister may decide that
it is appropriate to provide access to an exempt document to
a particular FOI applicant but that it would be unreasonable to publish
the document more widely. For example, an agency may have released an
exempt document to a particular FOI applicant in connection with a
research project, in connection with legal proceedings in which
the FOI applicant is involved, or because the confidential nature of
information in a document would not be jeopardised by selective release to
a particular FOI applicant. In these circumstances, the agency or Minister
may decide that it is unreasonable to publish this information more widely
in a disclosure log.

I made the decision not to exempt the transcript in full, noting the
applicant’s identity in FOI-2023-10082. However, at the time, I was of the
view publishing the documents more widely would be unreasonable, noting
its errors and candid nature. For this reason, I will need to consult
internally the Ombudsman on the release of this document, noting the
decision for your request will be published widely on the Right to Know
website.

 Timeframes

Under s 15AA of the FOI Act, the time for processing your application may
be extended up to 30 days with your agreement. I request a further 30 days
to process your request to allow consultation on the transcript. This
would mean the new date for us to provide you with a decision on your FOI
request will be 23 March 2024. Please confirm if you agree to this
extension by COB tomorrow, Wednesday 21 February 2024.  You can do this by
replying to this email with ‘AGREE’. Alternatively, you may refine the
scope of your request to exclude this document if it is not necessary to
the purposes of your request. In this scenario, I will have the rest of
the disclosed documents ready for release by the original due date of
Thursday 22 February 2024. If you choose to refine scope to exclude the
transcript it is still open for you to request the transcript via a new
request which will allow us sufficient time to consult on its release.

In the event you do not agree to the request for s 15AA extension or
refinement of scope, I am of the view that our Office will be required to
seek an extension of time from the OAIC under s 15AB of the FOI Act.

If you have any questions, you may contact me via email
at [2][email address]

Kind regards,

 

 

Sophia

Legal Officer

Defence, Investigations, ACT & Legal Branch

Proud to be working on the lands of the Gadigal
people of the Eora Nation.
1300 362 072

[3]A black and white [4][email address]
logo Description
automatically generated [5]ombudsman.gov.au

Level 5, 14 Childers St Canberra ACT 2600
The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the Traditional
Owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and
present.

Artwork by Kevin Bynder, Whadjuk Nyungar Badimia Yamatji Artist.

 

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the traditional
owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[FOI #11044 email]
mailto:[FOI #11044 email]
2. mailto:[email address]
mailto:[email address]
4. mailto:[email address]
5. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/

Dear Sophia,

I do not agree to an extension of time. I have an alternative proposal.

Please send 12 of the 13 documents to me via Right to Know by 22 February 2024, and please send all 13 documents, including the transcript, to my private email address, which is [email address], by 22 February 2024.

I think that course accommodates both of our interests.

Yours sincerely,

AJB

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

2 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear AJB,

Please see attached the following documents in relation to your Freedom of Information Request, FOI-2024-10017:

* Decision Letter - Part Access
* Documents for Release

Warm regards,

Sophia
Legal Officer
Defence, Investigations, ACT & Legal Branch
Proud to be working on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

1300 362 072
[email address]
ombudsman.gov.au
Level 5, 14 Childers St Canberra ACT 2600
The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.
Artwork by Kevin Bynder, Whadjuk Nyungar Badimia Yamatji Artist.

show quoted sections

Dear Sophia Murray-Walker,

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

I am writing to request a complete internal review of Commonwealth Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'FOI-2023-10082 - emails or other communications directed at all staff about the Royal Commission on the Robo-debt Scheme'.

You have set out several untenable claims in respect of exemptions in your decision letter, which I will draw attention to. I will also draw you attention to the sloppy manner in which you have applied yourself to handling my FOI request.

Trade secrets

You have redacted material on the basis of trade secrets. All of those redactions are without lawful basis.

On pages 26 and 34 of the released documents, you have redacted details in respect of the OCO’s client management systems.

It is public knowledge that the OCO uses platforms known as Objective and Resolve. The names of these platforms are not trade secrets. It is public knowledge because that information is:

a) published on the Austender website, where procurement contracts for licenses for Resolve and Objective are set out; and
b) published in the OCO’s operational materials.

On pages 35 – 37, you have redacted references to Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is as much a trade secret as Outlook 365 is a trade secret. You haven’t redacted the contents of the emails yet they betray the fact that Outlook 365 is used in the OCO.

You have obviously not read the judgments of the Federal Court or the decisions of the AAT on the correct interpretation of s 47 of the FOI Act, and its application to documents held by a government agency.

Personal information

You have redacted material on the basis of personal privacy. Many of those redactions are without lawful basis.

Document 8 is described as “Weekly exec meeting – possible discussion between Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman and Senior Assistant Ombudsmans (sic) about the report.”

You have redacted the names of the Assistant Ombudsmen. That is without lawful basis.

The names of the Assistant Ombudsmen are published on the OCO’s website: e.g. https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/asse....

The names, pictures, biographies and remuneration details of the Assistant Ombudsmen are published in the OCO’s annual reports: e.g. https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/asse... https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/asse... https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/asse....

Their names are also published in Hansard when they appear before the Senate for Estimates.

There is no basis for claiming that s 47F of the FOI Act applies to their names.

The names you have redacted on document 8 are:

a) Lisa Collett;
b) David Fintan;
c) Rebecca Vonthethoff;
d) Joanne Mulder;
e) Emma Cotterill;
f) Julia Galluccio.

You have also redacted the name of Katrina Dwyer, who, according to Hansard for the most recent round of Estimates, is currently acting in David Fintan’s capacity and is, ordinarily, responsible for strategic insights.

There is no basis for claiming that s 47F applies to Alexandra Feo’s name. It is public knowledge that she is the Executive Assistant to the Ombudsman and the Deputy Ombudsman. Her name, job title, work address and contact details are published on the Australian Government’s directory of names and telephone numbers: www.directory.gov.au/people/alexandra-feo.

You have also left her details unredacted on pages 37, 40 and 45 of the document that you released, which tends to show that you applied yourself sloppily to dealing with my FOI request.

You have obviously not read the judgments of the Federal Court, or the decisions of the AAT or the Information Commissioner, on the correct interpretation of s 47F of the FOI Act, and its application to documents held by a government agency.

Transcript (document 4)

I also want access to the transcript that you have withheld i.e. document 4.

In respect of paragraph 43 of your decision, you should carefully read s 11B(4) of the FOI Act. Your reason is untenable in the light of the law.

Your reasons also beg the question why the details you claim are secret and were obtained as part of Ombudsman investigations were the subject of discussion at a “town hall” meeting. Is that what complainants should expect?

It's bad enough that, as the Ombudsman has been forced to admit, Robodebt occurred because officials in the OCO failed in their duties to identify a program that the Federal Court and a Royal Commission labelled as "obviously unlawful" (apparently obvious to all except those who claim their remit it to advance good public administration). Are you honestly claiming that sensitive information about those people the OCO is tasked with protecting from unlawful administration in Government was thrown around, willy-nilly, at a plenary "town hall" meeting of staff? Is it the case that every man and his dog at the OCO is privy to sensitive information provided through official channels?

I’m not convinced that your reasons will withstand objective scrutiny according to the law.

Sloppy work and complete review

Given the sloppy nature of your handling of my FOI request and the obviously untenable reliance on exemptions, I request a complete review of your FOI decision. That means I request an internal review on all grounds, including the purported s 47E and s 22 claims that you have advanced.

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,

AJB

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

3 Attachments

OFFICIAL

 

Good afternoon AJB,

 

Please find attached my internal review decision in this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

Matt Jackson (he/him)

Assistant Director – Legal

Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman

 
[1]A black and white logo [email address]
Description automatically
generated [2]ombudsman.gov.au
Proud to be working on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin
Nation. The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the
Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing
connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders
past and present.

 

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the traditional
owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

show quoted sections

References

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2. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/

Commonwealth Ombudsman

 
 
  [1]Office of the Australian Information Reference Code:  
Commissioner ICR_10-56547844-4534
 

 
You submitted a form called: FOI Review_
 
Your form reference code is: ICR_10-56547844-4534

To check the progress of your submission and/or confirm it has been
received you should contact the agency that provides the form. These
details are displayed below.
 
 
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
[2]http://www.oaic.gov.au | [3]1300 363 992 | [4][email address]
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
 
 
Note: Please do not reply to this auto-generated email.
 

References

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2. http://www.oaic.gov.au/
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Commonwealth Ombudsman

1 Attachment

Our reference: MR24/00487

 

By email: [FOI #11044 email]

Receipt of your IC review application  

Thank you for your application for Information Commissioner Review (IC
review).

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is
considering your application.

If you wish to advise the OAIC of any changes to your circumstances,
including your contact details or if your FOI request has been resolved,
please write to [email address] and quote MR24/00487.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Freedom of Information Regulatory Group

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

 

 

 

Notice:

The information contained in this email message and any attached files may
be confidential information, and may also be the subject of legal
professional privilege. If you are not the intended recipient any use,
disclosure or copying of this email is unauthorised. If you received this
email in error, please notify the sender by contacting the department's
switchboard on 1300 488 064 during business hours (8:30am - 5pm Canberra
time) and delete all copies of this transmission together with any
attachments.

Dear Commonwealth Ombudsman,

According to the Commonwealth Ombudsman Disclosure Log, on 3 November 2023, the Ombudsman granted access to emails or other communications directed at all staff about the Royal Commission on the Robo-debt Scheme. The Commonwealth Ombudsman reference is FOI-2023-10082. A full disclosure was made of 3 documents and a partial disclosure was made of 10 documents.

Please grant access to the UNREDACTED VERSIONS of disclosed documents under the FOI Act by reply email.

Yours faithfully,

AJB

OAIC - FOI DR,

5 Attachments

Our reference:                 MR24/00487​

Agency reference:          FOI-2024-10017

 

By email: [1][FOI #11044 email]

 

Your Information Commissioner review application—request for information  

 

Dear AJB RTK,

 

I am writing to confirm the basis for your Information Commissioner (IC)
review application.

 

In your application, you asked the OAIC to review the Agency’s Freedom of
Information (FOI) decision of 24 March 2024 (decision FOI-2024-10017). I
have attached your application and the Agency’s decision. 

 

Your FOI request was for access to 13 documents disclosed under FOI
reference FOI-2023-10082. In decision FOI-2024-10017, the Agency provided
you 12 of the 13 documents requested without applying any exemptions. It
refused access to one document (document 4) in full under section 47E of
the FOI Act.

 

Please note, this IC review cannot review the merits of the Agency’s
decision in FOI-2023-10082, only the decision to exempt document 4 in
decision FOI-2024-10017. The decision to refuse access to document 4 will
be the basis of this IC review application.

 

Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me at
[email address].

 

Regards,

Heath

 

 

 

 

[2][IMG]   Heath Baker (He/him)

Director | FOI Branch

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

GPO Box 5288 Sydney NSW 2001  |  oaic.gov.au

 

The OAIC acknowledges Traditional Custodians of Country across Australia
and their continuing connection to land, waters and communities. We pay
our respect to First Nations people, cultures and Elders past and
present.  

 

[3]Subscribe to Information Matters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice:

The information contained in this email message and any attached files may
be confidential information, and may also be the subject of legal
professional privilege. If you are not the intended recipient any use,
disclosure or copying of this email is unauthorised. If you received this
email in error, please notify the sender by contacting the department's
switchboard on 1300 488 064 during business hours (8:30am - 5pm Canberra
time) and delete all copies of this transmission together with any
attachments.

References

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2. https://www.oaic.gov.au/
3. https://www.oaic.gov.au/engage-with-us/n...

Information Access, Commonwealth Ombudsman

2 Attachments

OFFICIAL: Sensitive

 

Our ref: FOI-2024-10052

Dear AJB,

Freedom of Information request – Acknowledgment

I acknowledge receipt of your correspondence dated 13 May 2024 to the
Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the Office), in which you requested
access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).
Your request for documents was in the following terms:

“According to the Commonwealth Ombudsman Disclosure Log, on 3 November
2023, the Ombudsman granted access to emails or other communications
directed at all staff about the Royal Commission on the Robo-debt Scheme.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman reference is FOI-2023-10082. A full disclosure
was made of 3 documents and a partial disclosure was made of 10 documents.

 

Please grant access to the UNREDACTED VERSIONS of disclosed documents
under the FOI Act by reply email.”

 

I note that you are requesting access to documents on our disclosure log
but we will be treating your request as an FOI request because you have
asked for unredacted versions of documents.

Timeframes

The FOI Act requires us to provide notice of a decision on your request
within 30 days from the date we received a valid FOI request, that is, on
or before 12 June 2024. This 30 day period may be extended if we need to
consult third parties, or for other reasons. We will let you know if this
happens.

 

If you have any questions, you may contact me via email at
[1][email address]

 

 

Kind regards,

 

Laura

Legal Officer

Defence, Investigations, ACT & Legal Branch
1300 362 072

[2]A black and white logo [3][email address]
Description automatically
generated [4]ombudsman.gov.au

Level 5, 14 Childers St Canberra ACT 2600
The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the Traditional
Owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and
present.

Artwork by Kevin Bynder, Whadjuk Nyungar Badimia Yamatji Artist.

 

 

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman acknowledges the traditional
owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to
land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past and
present.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
3. mailto:[email address]
4. http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are AJB please sign in and let everyone know.