Information regarding Early Return to Australia (ERTA)

Fiona Brandis-Dalton made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Defence

The request was refused by Department of Defence.

From: Fiona Brandis-Dalton

Delivered

Dear Department of Defence,

If possible please treat this as an informal or administrative request. Otherwise please consider this a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act (1982).

Please provide the following documents:

- Any documents that show statistics or summary information relating to personnel who have been sent home early from deployment in recent overseas operations (1999 to present). Specifically, I request any documents that relate to MRTA (Medical Return to Australia), COPAS RTA (Compassionate Return to Australia) and CRTA (Compulsory Return to Australia).

- Any report, memo, summary or recommendation (or similar) to the IGADF, Minister of Defence or Chiefs of Army, Navy or Airforce in relation to ERTA in the time frame indicated above.

If no such documents currently exist I request that you produce such a document in accordance with S17 1 C (i) of the Act.

I request that any fees be waived in relation to this request. The health, safety, welfare, discipline and readiness of our soldiers, sailors and airmen deployed in operations overseas are a matter of Public Interest.

Yours faithfully,
Fiona Brandis-Dalton

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Verity Pane left an annotation ()

Hi Fiona,

It might be worth heading over to the Federal Parliament website, because if you are lucky, there might be a question on notice (or taken on notice) that relates to at least some of this.

I suspect Defence might resist this FOI, but hopefully you at least get some answers via released documents.

Verity

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From: FOI
Department of Defence

UNCLASSIFIED

Good morning Ms Brandis-Dalton

 

Thank you for submitting a request for access to information you believe
to be held by the Department of Defence. In accordance with section
15(5)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), I formally
acknowledge receipt of your freedom of information request for access to:

 

1 – Any documents that show statistics or summary information relating to
personnel who have been sent home early from deployment in recent overseas
operations (1999 to present). Specifically, I request any documents that
relate to MRTA (Medical Return to Australia), COPAS RTA (Compassionate
Return to Australia) and CRTA (Compulsory Return to Australia).

 

2 – Any report, memo, summary or recommendation (or similar) to the IGADF,
Minister of Defence or Chiefs of Army, Navy or Airforce in relation to
ERTA in the time frame indicated above.

 

3 – If no such documents currently exist I request that you produce such a
document in accordance with s17(1)(c)(i) of the Act.

 

The purpose of this email is to advise you of the intention to refuse the
request because a ‘practical refusal reason’ exists under section 24 of
the FOI Act.  The practical refusal reason is specified in subsection
24AA1(a)(i) of the FOI Act in that the work involved in processing the
request would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of an
agency from its other operations as outlined below. 

 

Part 1 – This part of your scope seeks any documents from 1999 to present
which captures an 18 year timeframe. Eighteen years presents very large
search parameters. Australia’s Defence Force current operations
incorporate approximately 3300 Australian Defence Force personnel relating
to 12 overseas operations
([1]http://www.defence.gov.au/review/docs/op.... To request
documents for the current 12 operations would be substantial. An 18 year
search parameter is unreasonable.

 

Part 2 – Australian Defence Force personnel return early to Australia from
deployment for a variety of reasons as you have outlined in the scope of
your request. With any ERTA you would appreciate there to be a lot of
communication for the individual circumstances to be suitably reviewed and
evaluated. It would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of the
Departments resources to seek any reports, memos, summary or
recommendation documents from the five named service areas for the last 18
years.    

 

Part 3 – You are requesting Defence to produce a document (if no such
documents were found to exist in part 1 and 2 of your request) in
accordance with section 17(1)(c)(i) of the FOI Act. Defence do not hold
the information you are seeking on a central database for easy extraction.
Section 17(1)(c)(i) of the FOI Act states: Where the agency could produce
a written document containing the information in discrete form. As Defence
does not have a system that holds these types of documents for easy
extraction, we are unable to action this part of your request.

 

Based on the above points and advice from the relevant action areas, under
section 24AA of the FOI Act and for the purposes of section 24 of the FOI
Act, Defence considers that a ‘practical refusal reason' exists
in relation to your FOI request. In accordance with section 24AB of the
FOI Act, Defence is required to consult with you advising of the intention
to refuse access to your request in its current form.

 

In accordance with paragraph 24AB(2)(c) of the FOI Act, I am the nominated
person with whom you should contact with a view to agreeing to one of the
following options:

 

    a.    withdraw your request

    b.    revise your request; or

    c.    indicate that you do not wish to revise your request.

 

As outlined in section 24AB(9) of the FOI Act, Defence is only required to
undertake this consultation process once, and you must contact me within
14 days to discuss.

 

If you have any questions in relation to your request, or require further
information, please contact the FOI team on [2][email address] and
quote reference FOI 178/18/19.

 

Kind regards

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From: Fiona Brandis-Dalton

Delivered

Dear “Designated Person” in Department of Defence FOI,

(I note your response to me is unsigned and your name is not indicated.)

I refer to Defence's decision to refuse my request due to practical refusal reasons per 24AA1(a)(i) of the Act. I request you re-consider my original request under the revised parameters below:

Please provide the following documents:

- Any documents that show statistics or summary information relating to personnel who have been sent home early from deployment in recent overseas operations (2013 to present). Specifically, I request any documents that relate to MRTA (Medical Return to Australia), COPAS RTA (Compassionate Return to Australia) and CRTA (Compulsory Return to Australia).

- Any report, memo, summary or recommendation (or similar) to the Minister of Defence in relation to ERTA in the time frame indicated above

Given the scope of Australia’s current operational commitment and the magnitude of Defence spending, I find it difficult to accept that there are NO existing documents that show basic summary statistical data regarding military personnel who have been ERTA.

I reiterate that this information is in the Public Interest. Senate and Productivity Commission inquiries (both current and recent) indicate that there is an appetite for information relating to the health and welfare of serving members and veterans.

Yours faithfully,

Fiona Brandis-Dalton

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Verity Pane left an annotation ()

Hi Fiona,

You are right, in that as a formal notice, the Department of Defence should not send out notices of intent to refuse (practical refusal) using generic signature blocks. This is because agencies, in particular for notification of practical refusal, must identify who in the Department is to be consulted.

The OAIC only mid-year this year explicitly advised agencies of this requirement through their ICON circular to agencies, where they stated:

Where the decision relates to a document of an agency, the decision notice needs to include the name and designation of the person making the decision, including the decision maker’s first name, surname and title, to clearly explain their authority to make the decision [FOI Guidelines 3.181].

Unfortunately some unscrupulous agencies are now anonymously issuing these types of notices, to explicitly avoid accountability and transparency, which is in bad faith, and very disappointing.

Regards

Verity

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From: FOI
Department of Defence

UNCLASSIFIED

Good afternoon Ms Brandis-Dalton

 

Thank you for engaging in consultation on your FOI request and providing
revised parameters for Defence to consider as outlined below:

 

1 –Any documents that show statistics or summary information relating to
personnel who have been sent home early from deployment in recent overseas
operations (2013 to present). Specifically, I request any documents that
relate to MRTA (Medical Return to Australia), COPAS RTA (Compassionate
Return to Australia) and CRTA (Compulsory Return to Australia).

 

2 – Any report, memo, summary or recommendation (or similar) to the
Minister of Defence in relation to ERTA in the time frame indicated above.

 

Defence appreciate you have refined the date range for searches from 18 to
6 years and removed IGADF and Chiefs of Army, Navy or Airforce in relation
to ERTA from the scope for searching. However, your revision has not
removed the practical refusal reason.

 

As advised in our email dated 6 November 2018, Defence does not have any
documents that contain statistics/summary on early returns from
operations.  These documents would need to be produced, which would be a
considerable body of work. The search for documents that relate to MRTA,
COPAS, CRTA would be a significant undertaking to search and identify
documents within scope of your request.

 

Based on the above, Defence considers that a ‘practical refusal reason'
still exists in relation to the revised scope of your FOI request as the
work involved in processing the request would still substantially and
unreasonably divert the resources of this agency from its other
operations. 

 

In accordance with paragraph 24AB(2)(c) of the FOI Act, I am the nominated
person with whom you should contact with a view to agreeing to one of the
following options:

    a.    withdraw your request

    b.    revise your request; or

    c.    indicate that you do not wish to revise your request.

 

I encourage you to contact the FOI team and quote reference FOI 178/18/19
should you have any questions in relation to this email so we can assist
you in moving forward.

 

Kind regards

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From: Fiona Brandis-Dalton

Delivered

Dear Defence FOI,

I formally withdraw my FOI request given that you refuse to commit resources to produce information that is clearly in the Public Interest.

The Department of Defence cares so little about the health (including mental health) and well- being of members who are deployed to theatres of war and conflict that not only do they have no report about Early Return to Australia they also refuse to produce one - this really does invite the most condign criticism.

Regards,
Fiona Brandis-Dalton

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
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