To the Department of Immigration and Citizenship,
Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) I request the following document:
Incident Detail Report 1-77T9FM from the Department's Compliance, Case Management, Detention and Settlement Portal. I also request any documents attached to the detailed report.
Dear Ms Yusaf
Please see the attached notice.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Dear Ms Rossiter
I do not accept your response in regards to my FOI Request for Detail Incident Report 1-77T9FM.
I understand that your reasons for refusal are based on Section 24A of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. Having read the Act in its entirety, I believe the reasons you have given under the title ‘Why I intend to refuse your request’, fundamentally go against the overall purpose and spirit of the FOI Act.
I accept that as per the recommendations of the Act that 2 or more requests of a similar manner may be grouped and classified as a single request. However your second reason under section 24A stating that processing the request “would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the agency from its other operations” (s. 24AA (1)(a)(i)) is problematic. Specifically, my concern is with the use of the term ‘unreasonably’.
Several sections of the Act explicitly state the value, and inherent necessity of information being made available to the public. Indeed under the preliminary section titled ‘Objective’, the Act states:
(2) The Parliament intends, by these objects, to promote Australia’s representative democracy by contributing towards the following:
(a) increasing public participation in Government processes, with a view to promoting better informed decision making;
(b) increasing scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government’s activities.
(3) The Parliament also intends, by these objects, to increase recognition that information held by the Government is to be managed for public purposes, and is a national resource.
Clearly, access to information is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy. Your response indicates an unwillingness to engage with this necessary aspect of a functioning democracy-transparency and accountability. You yourself have acknowledged in your response that Australians are concerned about asylum seekers in immigration detention facilities. They are there because of government policy. 2a recognises that increased public participation is essential in influencing decision-making-in this case, immigration policy.
Considering that we are talking about public participation in our national democracy, I do not accept your assertion that to process this request would be making an ‘unreasonable’ demand on a public office-The Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
I accept that the time taken to respond to the information will require significant person-power. I would also suggest that this is the necessary work of public service.
It may be worth considering that the volume of requests for information are a result of government policy, specifically immigration policy and therefore well within your mandated workload.
I refer to your claim that “Unless there were compelling public interest factors in the release, this would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of DIAC’s resources.” My response would be to again refer you to the main objective of the Act which is a legally enforceable right to know. This constitutes a compelling enough public interest factor for me, and I’m sure for many others who have requested information in regard to incidents.
You yourself have outlined the main incidents that people have requested information for: aborted removals, accidents and injuries, self harm (both threats and actual), the detection of contraband, onsite and offsite demonstrations, use of restraint and force, (shameful) deaths and my own request regarding an incident of a minor’s overdose while in detention. Because we know enough to know these have certainly occurred on our soil and bring into question Australia’s human rights commitments, they are compellingly, irrevocably and entirely of public interest. To question that is a shameful and arrogant assumption that Australian’s do not care about what happens to other human beings in detention.
Lastly I refer to your flimsy assertion that the privacy of individuals in detention and their families is a contributing factor to your decision. You would be well aware that a process of redaction has occurred around the names of those involved in the incidents. Many times your Department refers to the person involved simply as ‘Client’. I do not think this represents a significant personal information risk. It is also clear that many individuals in immigration detention facilities have shown through their art, their protest, their letters and their activism that above all else they value their human right to have their right to seek asylum in a fair and timely fashion. Their human rights violations are the primary concern here and I would venture to argue that privacy could be well maintained while still providing information into these incidents.
I will be requesting consultation under scope through a representative.