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Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal - seeking documents substantiating an assistant secretary's advice to a Minister

Trav S made this Freedom of Information request to Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

This request has an unknown status. We're waiting for Trav S to read recent responses and update the status.

From: Trav S

Delivered

Dear PM&C,

On 26 September 2013 the then Assistant Secretary of PM&C's Honours, Symbols and Territories Branch produced document reference B13/1718 titled "Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal Iraq - eligibility of a commercial contractor".

In this document the Assistant Secretary states to the Minister for Honours Policy that:

"we would expect strong criticism from existing medal holders and others of a decision to extend eligibility for the medal beyond the original purpose, which is to recognise not-for-profit humanitarian service".

1. We seek a copy of the documents substantiating the Secretary's assertion that the Department "would expect strong criticism from existing medal holders".

2. We seek a copy of the document identifying the stakeholders the Secretary refers to as 'others'.

The Sovereign has ultimate authority for the Australian Honours and Awards System and the Sovereign instituted the medal in 1999 for the purposes of:

"according recognition to persons who have given humanitarian service in hazardous circumstances outside Australia".

The Prime Minister reaffirmed the medal's original purpose again in 2011 via a Commonwealth of Australia Special Gazette in which he states the medal was instituted for the purposes of:

"according recognition to persons who have given humanitarian service in hazardous circumstances outside Australia".

3. We seek a copy of the document evidencing the Secretary's assertion that the medal's original purpose was to recognise not-for-profit humanitarian service.

Thanks for your time.

Yours faithfully,

Trav S

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

FOI/2020/208

 

Dear Trav S

 

Thank you for your email dated 7 September 2020, received by the
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (the Department), in which
you made a request to the Department under the Freedom of Information Act
1982 (the FOI Act) in the following terms:

 

On 26 September 2013 the then Assistant Secretary of PM&C's Honours,
Symbols and Territories Branch produced document reference B13/1718 titled
"Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal Iraq - eligibility of a commercial
contractor".

 

In this document the Assistant Secretary states to the Minister for
Honours Policy that:

 

"we would expect strong criticism from existing medal holders and others
of a decision to extend eligibility for the medal beyond the original
purpose, which is to recognise not-for-profit humanitarian service". 

 

1.  We seek a copy of the documents substantiating the Secretary's
assertion that the Department "would expect strong criticism from existing
medal holders".

 

2.  We seek a copy of the document identifying the stakeholders the
Secretary refers to as 'others'.

 

The Sovereign has ultimate authority for the Australian Honours and Awards
System and the Sovereign instituted the medal in 1999 for the purposes of:

 

"according recognition to persons who have given humanitarian service in
hazardous circumstances outside Australia".

 

The Prime Minister reaffirmed the medal's original purpose again in 2011
via a Commonwealth of Australia Special Gazette in which he states the
medal was instituted for the purposes of:

 

"according recognition to persons who have given humanitarian service in
hazardous circumstances outside Australia".

 

3.  We seek a copy of the document evidencing the Secretary's assertion
that the medal's original purpose was to recognise not-for-profit
humanitarian service.

 

Timeframe for receiving your decision

 

Your request was received on 7 September 2020 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 7 October 2020. The
period of 30 days may be extended in certain circumstances. We will advise
you if there is any extension of time.

 

Charges

 

Agencies may decide that an applicant is liable to pay a charge in respect
of a request for access to documents. If the Department decides that you
are liable to pay a charge, we will send you a preliminary assessment of
the charge as soon as possible.

 

Publication of documents

 

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log at
[1]https://www.pmc.gov.au/government/depart...,
subject to certain exceptions. If you think you might wish to raise any
objections to the publication of any of the information which may be
released to you please contact us by email at [2][DPMC request email].  If you
do wish to object to the publication of information, you would need to
provide supporting reasons.

 

Exclusion of officers’ names and contact details

 

For documents that fall within scope of the request, it is the
Department’s policy to withhold:

·         any person’s signature;

·         the names and contact details of Australian Public Service
officers not in the Senior Executive Service (SES);

·         the mobile or direct numbers of SES officers;

·         the names and contact details of Ministerial staff at a level
below Chief of Staff.

 

The names and other details of SES officers will not be withheld unless
there is some reason for that information to be exempt from release. If
you require signatures, the names and contact details of non-SES officers
or Ministerial staff below the level of Chief of Staff, or the mobile or
direct numbers of SES officers please let us know at [3][DPMC request email] so
the decision-maker may consider; otherwise we will take it that you agree
to that information being excluded from the scope of your request (that
is, the information will be treated as irrelevant and redacted from any
documents for release).

 

We will write again when the Department has more information.  Further
information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the Office of
the Australian Information Commissioner
[4]https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor....

 

Sincerely

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [5][DPMC request email] | w. [6]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

[7]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[8]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[9]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00 [10]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

The Department acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country
throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, waters and
community. We pay our respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both
past and present.

 

 

 

 

 

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References

Visible links
1. https://www.pmc.gov.au/government/depart...
2. mailto:[DPMC request email]
3. mailto:[DPMC request email]
4. https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor...
5. mailto:[DPMC request email]
6. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
7. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
8. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
9. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
10. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

Dear Trav S

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 to the Department of the Prime Minister
and Cabinet.

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[3]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[4]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[5]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[6]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

[7]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DPMC request email]
2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
3. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
4. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
5. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
6. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

Link to this

From: Trav S

Delivered

Dear FOI Advisor,

Thank you for informing me of the Department's practical refusal reason consultation notice. Section 24AB suggests if the applicant contacts the contact person during the consultation period in accordance with the notice, the agency may take reasonable steps to assist the applicant to review the request so that the practical refusal reason no longer exists.

I would be grateful for such consultations and will contact the Department to discuss.

Thank you for your time.

Kind regards

Trav S

Link to this

From: Trav S

Delivered

Dear FOI Advisor,

Thank you for informing me of the Department's practical refusal reason consultation notice.

Section 24AB suggests if the applicant contacts the contact person during the consultation period in accordance with the notice, the agency may take reasonable steps to assist the applicant to review the request so that the practical refusal reason no longer exists.

I would be grateful for such consultations and will contact the Department to discuss.

Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,

Trav S

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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Attachment FOI 2020 208 PRCN 8 Oct 2020.pdf
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OFFICIAL

 

FOI/2020/208

 

Dear Trav S

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 to the Department of the Prime Minister
and Cabinet.

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[3]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[4]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[5]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[6]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

[7]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DPMC request email]
2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
3. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
4. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
5. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
6. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

Link to this

From: Trav S

Delivered

On 7 September 2020, I requested documents seeking to substantiate the decision maker's advice recorded in Paragraph 6.b. The advice was unsubstantiated. It appeared reasonable and in the public interest to ask for evidence to help to determine if the advice was predicated on fact or fiction.

On 25 September 2020, PM&C issued a practical refusal notice. The department disclosed that the group referred to as ‘others’ in Paragraph 6.b. represents the general public with an interest in Australia’s honours system. However, the department did not disclose how the decision maker came to know the opinion of the general public and no reference was provided to verify the claim. Unfortunately the department did not disclose any material with which to substantiate the advice Paragraph 6.b.

On 25 September 2020, I amended my request and re-stated the advice in Paragraph 6.b. is unsubstantiated and may be incorrect. It appeared reasonable and in the public interest to enquire into the veracity of the advice in Paragraph 6.b. considering the following.

- The Medal’s original Letters Patent state the Medal was instituted to accord recognition to persons who have given humanitarian in hazardous circumstances outside Australia. Definitions are important - they say what particular words mean and give words special meaning for particular Acts or instruments. The regulations governing the Medal prescribe humanitarian service means service giving immediate remedy or action to assist the needy or distressed persons in order to sustain the life and dignity of those persons. The term not-for profit does not appear to be in the regulations.

- The advice in Paragraph 6.b. may conflate the Medal's purpose, which is prescribed by the Letters Patent, with the types of organisations the Medal is principally awarded to i.e. humanitarian not-for-profit organisations. However the Medal was designed to be flexible to accomodate Government approval of operations conducted under the authority of international or national agencies. This is stated in primary source documents and evidenced by the Australian contingent to the rehabilitation program in Iraq carried out by the Coalition Provisional Authority being a prescribed eligible organisation in the Medal’s declaration for Iraq.

- The advice in Paragraph 6.b. may be the opposite of the evidence. The public record shows examples of commercial contractors being awarded the Medal in recognition of their service with the Australian contingent to the Coalition Provisional Authority. Documents show the lead agency responsible for delivering the Australian Government’s humanitarian programs for the Iraqi people supported the Medal being awarded. Medal holders from the Australian contingent to Iraq have written in support.

On 8 October 2020, PM&C issued a 2nd practical refusal notice.

Please accept this amended request.

It appears the 'authorised decision maker' who rejected my 7 September 2020 FOI request may be the same person who produced the advice in Paragraph 6.b. If this is the case, it appears reasonable to put they would be able to help to identify the specific documents informing the advice without the department needing to undertaking extensive searches.

Please provide a copy of the document informing the advice regarding 'existing medal holders' in Paragraph 6.b.

Yours sincerely

Trav S

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

Dear Trav S

 

Please find attached the decision on your request to the Department of the
Prime Minister and Cabinet under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[3]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[4]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[5]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[6]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

[7]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DPMC request email]
2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
3. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
4. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
5. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
6. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

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From: Trav S

Delivered

Dear FOI,

I'd like to ask for an internal review.

I reduced the scope of my FOI request and offered reasonable advice to help reduce the burden of the request following consultation.

As noted, the SES public service officer who produced the advice in Paragraph 6.b. appears to be the same person who rejected this FOI request, which seeks to assess the veracity of their advice. It appears reasonable that they should be able to produce such evidence when called to do so.

It is unreasonable to propose a SES public service officer would need to review 20,100 pages of documents to find the documents informing their advice to a Minister 6 years ago. If such documents existed it appears reasonable they should be able to locate them without such an extensive search. The public should be able to expect an SES officer charged with administering the HOSM for around a decade to be able to produce such basic documents if they existed.

The Department recalled the folders/files specifically pertaining to the HOSM from National Archives towards the end of 2019. In September 2020, the National Archives confirmed these documents had not yet been returned. The public is as such unable to access this information until the Department returns them to National Archives.

As noted, the advice in Paragraph 6.b. is unsubstantiated. It conflicts with evidence available at the time the advice was formed. It unreasonably claims to know the opinion of the general public and implies this opinion would be universally critical. It claims to know the opinion of other medal holders but is unable to provide a single document evidencing this claim. It appears to conflate the HOSM's legislative purpose with the types of organisation it is principally awarded to.

The decision-maker has consistently failed to provide documentary evidence with which to substantiate their advice in Paragraph 6.b. However they are ideally placed to access such documents if they existed. They have requisite HOSM specific knowledge to know where such documents should be.

It appears reasonable to believe the advice in Paragraph 6.b. is based on the decision-maker's unsubstantiated opinion unless the documentary evidence can be produced.

Yours sincerely,

Trav S

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From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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OFFICIAL

 

OFFICIAL

 

FOI/2020/208IR

 

Dear Trav S

 

Thank you for your email dated 12 October 2020, received by the Department
of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (the Department), in which you made a
request for internal review of the Department’s decision dated 12 October
2020, in relation to your request under the Freedom of Information Act
1982 (the FOI Act) (reference: FOI/2020/208) in the following terms:

 

Please provide a copy of the document informing the advice regarding
'existing medal holders' in Paragraph 6.b.

 

Timeframe for receiving your internal review decision

 

We received your request for internal review on 12 October and the 30-day
statutory period for internal review commenced from the day after that
date. You should therefore expect the internal review decision from us by
11 November 2020.

 

Publication of documents

 

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on our disclosure log at
[1]https://www.pmc.gov.au/government/depart...,
subject to certain exceptions. If you think you might wish to raise any
objections to the publication of any of the information which may be
released to you please contact us by email at [2][DPMC request email]. If you do
wish to object to the publication of information, you would need to
provide supporting reasons.

 

Exclusion of officers’ names and contact details

 

For documents that fall within scope of the request, it is the
Department’s policy to withhold:

o any person’s signature;
o the names and contact details of Australian Public Service officers
not in the Senior Executive Service (SES);
o the mobile or direct numbers of SES officers;
o the names and contact details of Ministerial staff at a level below
Chief of Staff.

 

The names and other details of SES officers will not be withheld unless
there is some reason for that information to be exempt from release. If
you require signatures, the names and contact details of non-SES officers
or Ministerial staff below the level of Chief of Staff, or the mobile or
direct numbers of SES officers please let us know at [3][DPMC request email] so
the decision-maker may consider; otherwise we will take it that you agree
to that information being excluded from the scope of your request (that
is, the information will be treated as irrelevant and redacted from any
documents for release).

 

We will write again when the Department has more information. Further
information on FOI processing can be found at the website of the Office of
the Australian Information Commissioner
[4]https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor....

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI Adviser

FOI and Privacy Section| Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

[5]http://www.dcducks.com/wp-content/themes...
6271 5849
[6]http://cdn.mysitemyway.com/icons-waterma... request email]

[8]https://www.musicianswithoutborders.org/...

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[10]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[11]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[12]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[13]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

 

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References

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1. https://www.pmc.gov.au/government/depart...
2. mailto:[DPMC request email]
3. mailto:[DPMC request email]
4. https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor...
7. mailto:[DPMC request email]
9. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
10. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
11. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
12. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
13. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

Link to this

From: FOI
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


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Attachment FOI 2020 208IR Internal review decision.pdf
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OFFICIAL

 

Dear Trav S

 

Please find attached the internal review decision on your request under
the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet.

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI and Privacy Section | Legal Policy Branch

Government Division | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

p. (02) 6271 5849

e. [1][DPMC request email] | w. [2]www.pmc.gov.au

One National Circuit Barton ACT 2600 | PO Box 6500 CANBERRA ACT 2600

[3]cid:image001.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[4]cid:image002.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[5]cid:image003.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00[6]cid:image004.jpg@01D30607.6CF4DA00

[7]Title: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present. -
Description: Reconcilation branding and acknowledgment: The Department
acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia
and their continuing connections to the land, waters and community. We pay
respect to their Cultures, Country and Elders both past and present.

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[DPMC request email]
2. http://www.pmc.gov.au/
3. https://twitter.com/pmc_gov_au
4. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
5. https://twitter.com/indigenous_gov
6. https://www.facebook.com/indigenous.gov....

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

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