Marriage equality plebiscite cost estimates

Charlie Somerville made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Electoral Commission

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Australian Electoral Commission.

Charlie Somerville

Dear Australian Electoral Commission,

I hereby request, under the Freedom of Information Act (1982) copies of the following documents, available as of the date of this letter:

(a) All documents pertaining to estimates the commission has made for the cost of running the proposed plebiscite on same sex marriage

I also make the application that all costs for the processing of this request be waived on the grounds that the release of this information is in the public interest and will help inform the public debate surrounding the plebiscite.

Yours faithfully,

Charlie Somerville

Australian Electoral Commission

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Antonia Exposito, Australian Electoral Commission

5 Attachments


Dear Mr Somerville

I refer to your email of 28 August 2016 7:13pm, in which you request (the
‘FOI Request’) for access under the [1]Freedom of Information Act 1982
(the ‘FOI Act’) to documents relating to cost estimates for the

I enclose a scanned letter to you dated 14 September 2016 from Paul
Pirani, Chief Legal Officer of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC),
notifying you of his decision about your FOI Request.



Antonia Exposito | Administrative Assistant

Legal Services Section | Legal & Procurement Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: (02) 6271 4405 | F: (02) 6293 7657

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William Summers left an annotation ()

You should appeal.

The reasons given for this being against the public interest seem very weak. Some of this strikes me as very dubious:

“The effect on members of the public flows from the conduct of the plebiscite and not the cost of conducting it.” >>> This is public spending so of course it affects the public in a very direct way! Plus there is a clear and undeniable debate about whether the costs of the plebiscite can be justified. Going down their line of argument, it would be of no public interest to know how much the Govt is spending on anything as it is only the outcomes that should be of interest.

“The cost of the plebiscite will only be ascertained once the plebiscite is conducted and the expenses associated with it have crystallised.” >>> Well obviously. But this is about estimated costs, which you would hope are useful in some way if not why spend public resources doing this exercise?

“The breakdown of various opinions about particular likely expenses incurred in conducting a plebiscite would provide no useful basis for oversight of the public expenditure incurred…” >>> Again, why do the exercise of estimating costs if it provides “no useful basis” for establishing probably costs? Seems very strange.

They also use the fact that legislation for a plebiscite hasn't been passed yet as a reason not to give the info, though I don't understand how this is of any relevance and it seems to be a bit of a red herring. Surely the cost of the plebiscite is relevant to that vote anyway.

Ask for an internal review of the reasons against public interest. Then take to OAIC. Your issue is that the Bill is likely to be killed before you get through all that anyway.