Group Certificates/PAYG payment summaries of IP Australia's SES staff - FY2013/14, FY2014/15 and FY2015/16

Name withheld made this Freedom of Information request to IP Australia

The request was partially successful.

From: Name withheld

Delivered

Dear IP Australia,

This request is an application for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act).

I am conducting research, across a range of Government agencies, into the Government's enterprise bargaining framework for the Commonwealth Public Service. Specifically, in the interests of equity and transparency, whether the Government's policy to reduce the living standards of rank and file public servants (that is, public servants who are not considered senior executive staff ('SES')) public servants, also extends to SES public servants.

Accordingly, I request documents which detail the precise remuneration paid to each of the IP Australia’s SES officers in the following financial years - FY2013/14, FY 2014/15 and FY2015/16. The group certificates/end-of-year PAYG payments summaries issued by IP Australia to each of its SES staff in those years can be quickly and easily identified and retrieved, and will efficiently and accurately provide the information the subject of my request.

I am willing to agree to the decision maker redacting information relating to the tax file numbers, the home addresses and information relating to the amount of tax withheld for each of the relevant SES officers that may be contained in the relevant documents. I am willing to further narrow the scope of my request by limiting it to officers employed by the IP Australia who, at the time of my application, were categorised as SES officers, meaning that:

- IP Australia staff who were once SES officers at IP Australia, but weren’t categorised as such at the time of this application; and
- the documents the subject of my request that pertain to SES officers who are no longer employed by IP Australia;

are discounted from the scope of my application.

I make the following submissions in support of my application.

The precise remuneration paid to public servants for performing public duties is a matter of wide and countervailing public interest. That is established by authority, including that set out in Re Ricketson and Royal Women’s Hospital (1989) 4 VAR 10; Re Forbes and Department of Premier & Cabinet (1993) 6 VAR 53; Re Stewart and Department of Transport (1993) 1 QAR 227; Re Thwaites and Metropolitan Ambulance Service (unreported, 13 June 1997); Re Milthorpe and Mt. Alexander Shire Council (1997) 12 VAR 105; Re National Tertiary Education Industry Union (Murdoch Branch) and Murdoch University; Ors [2001] WAICmr 1 and Asher and Department of State and Regional Development [2002] VCAT 609.

In Re Forbes, Deputy President Ball said (at page 60):
"Mr Baxter is a senior public servant performing very significant public functions and being paid wholly from money provided by the public. The public is entitled to know precisely how much of its money is received in salary and entitlements by senior public servants for performing functions on behalf of the public."

In Re Stewart, at pp.257-258, the Information Commissioner observed:
"It has been held […] that there is a general public interest in seeing how the taxpayers' money is spent which is sufficient to justify the disclosure of the gross income payable from the public purse to the holder of a public office. […] see [Re Ricketson and Royal Women's Hospital (1989) 4 VAR 10, and Re Forbes and Department of the Premier and Cabinet (1993) 6 VAR 53]."

In Re National Tertiary Education Industry Union, the Commissioner observed (at [68]):
"I recognise that there is a public interest in the public receiving value for its money spent on public education, especially in the present climate of financial restrictions. I agree with the Tribunal in Re Ricketson and Re Forbes that the public is entitled to know how much of its money is received in salary and entitlements by senior public officers for performing functions on behalf of the public and that such information is the subject of legitimate public interest and discussion."

In Asher, Deputy President McNamara stated:
"The total remuneration paid to senior public officers has been, and continues to be, a matter of public concern and public debate. The authorities referred to above indicate the fact that the taxpayers ultimately meet the remuneration gives them a legitimate interest in this matter, even although it is one that it is clearly a matter relative to the personal affairs to the officers themselves. As Mr Edwards notes, his actions as Secretary must ultimately be regulated by the law which must take precedence over any government policy, or one might say any private assurance that he might give to a particular officer. The existence of authorities such as Forbes and Milthorpe indicates that conformably with the Freedom of Information Act no officer, certainly no senior officer, could legally obtain an absolute guarantee of confidentiality of his or her total remuneration package figure without some special enabling legislation."

An additional wide public interest aspect that relates to my application is that employment relations (including the regulation of pay and conditions) in the public sector are widely considered to serve as a role model for industrial relations in the private sector (see, for example, Creighton B and Forsyth R [Eds.] Rediscovering Collective Bargaining, 2012 at pp.184-185). That is, the way in which a government treats its staff (public servants) can be considered emblematic of the way in which a government considers employees across the broader workforce should be treated by their employers. The current Commonwealth Government has an employment relations policy in place (known as the ‘Australian Public Service Bargaining Framework’) which necessarily involves reducing the living standards for rank and file (non-SES) public servants. Senior management IP Australia has decided, at its discretion, to adopt and enforce, against its rank and file staff, the Government’s employment relations policy. Part of the purpose of my application is to determine whether the Government’s policy to reduce the living standards of rank and file public servants also extends to SES public servants. The documents the subject of my request will shed some light on that issue. It is immutably in the public interest of not only IP Australia employees and employees across the wider public service, but also Australian taxpayers and working Australians more generally, to know whether it is the current Government’s view that rank and file employees who are not categorised as senior executives (or equivalent) are generally overpaid, and should therefore have their living standards reduced by their employers, while senior executives (or their equivalents) are generally underpaid and should have their living standards increased.

Yours sincerely

[name not required to be provided under the FOI Act]

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From: MDB-Office of Legal Counsel
IP Australia


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Dear Sir/Madam,

I acknowledge your request for access to documents relating to remuneration paid to certain employees of IP Australia.

Your request received on 5 March 2017 is for: documents which detail the precise remuneration paid to each of the IP Australia’s SES officers in the following financial years - FY2013/14, FY 2014/15 and FY2015/16. In particular, you suggest that we provide you with "the group certificates/end-of-year PAYG payments summaries issued by IP Australia to each of its SES staff in those years" to fulfil your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

As your request covers documents which contain personal information, IP Australia will be consulting with the relevant individuals under section 27A of the FOI Act before making a decision on the release of those documents. 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 relevant individuals (section 15(6) of the FOI Act). The processing period for your request is therefore extended to Thursday, 4 May 2017 under the FOI Act.

The consultation mechanism under section 27A applies when we believe the individuals may wish to contend that the requested documents are exempt for reasons of personal privacy. We will take into account any comments we receive from the individuals but the final decision about whether to grant you access to the documents you requested rests with the FOI decision-maker. The decision-maker who will make that decision will be an authorised decision-maker (with delegation under section 23(1) of the FOI Act) from the Office of Legal Counsel at IP Australia.

If you have any further queries in the interim, please contact the Office of Legal Counsel at the provided e-mail address below and including 'LEX 709' in your subject line as a reference.

Regards,

Jason Ng
Legal Counsel
Office of Legal Counsel
IP Australia

Email: [email address]
Visit us at http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/

Legal in Confidence - This transmission is intended only for the use of the addressee and may contain confidential or legally privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient, you are notified that any use or dissemination of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify me immediately by telephone and delete copies of this transmission together with any attachments.

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From: Name withheld

Delivered

Dear FOI,

By my calculations, and in accordance with s.15AC of the FOI Act, IP Australia (and in particular, Ms Patricia Kelly) is taken to have refused my request. But if you think otherwise, please let me know by close of business Tuesday, 11 April 2017.

Yours sincerely,

[Name not required to be provided under the FOI Act]

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From: MDB-Office of Legal Counsel
IP Australia


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Dear Sir/Madam,

 

Thank you for your email below.

 

Under section 15(6) of the FOI Act, where an agency determines in writing
that the requirements of section 27A make it appropriate to extend the
period referred to in paragraph 15(5)(b), the usual period for determining
the request is extended by 30 days to 60 days.

 

As referred to in our email dated 8 March 2017, IP Australia is consulting
with relevant individuals under section 27A of the FOI Act.

 

The processing period for your request is therefore extended to Thursday,
4 May 2017.

 

No decision has currently been made in relation to your request.

 

Yours faithfully

 

 

Elizabeth Carroll

Chief Legal Counsel

Office of Legal Counsel

IP Australia

 

 

 

Legal in Confidence - This transmission is intended only for the use of
the addressee and may contain confidential or legally privileged
information. If you are not the intended recipient, you are notified that
any use or dissemination of this communication is strictly prohibited. If
you have received this transmission in error, please notify me immediately
by telephone and delete copies of this transmission together with any
attachments.

 

 

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From: Name withheld

Delivered

Right you are Ms Carroll - my apologies.

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From: MDB-Office of Legal Counsel
IP Australia


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Attachment LEX 709 Decision letter 4 May 2017.pdf
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Attachment LEX 709 Documents.pdf
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Attachment FOI Factsheet 12 Your review rights.pdf
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Dear Sir/Madam
 
I refer to your email request received by IP Australia on 5 March 2017.
 
Please find attached:
 

* letter from IP Australia of today’s date;
* redacted copies of the 26 documents relevant to your request; and
* FOI Fact Sheet 12.

 
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Elizabeth Carroll
Chief Legal Counsel
Office of Legal Counsel
IP Australia
 
 
Visit us at [1]http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au
 
Legal in Confidence - This transmission is intended only for the use of
the addressee and may contain confidential or legally privileged
information. If you are not the intended recipient, you are notified that
any use or dissemination of this communication is strictly prohibited. If
you have received this transmission in error, please notify me immediately
by telephone and delete copies of this transmission together with any
attachments.
 
 
 

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1. http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/

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