Meetings with Department of Human Services

Justin Warren made this Freedom of Information request to Minister for Human Services

The request was refused by Minister for Human Services.

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Minister for Human Services,

If possible, please treat this as an informal or administrative request. Otherwise, please treat this as a formal request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

I request the following documents:

1. Diary extracts listing the date, time, and duration of any and all meetings held with the Department of Human Services between 1 Jan 2016 and 31 Dec 2016, inclusive.
2. Meeting agendas for any and all meetings held with the Department for Human Services between 1 Jan 2016 and 31 Dec 2016, inclusive.
3. Minutes and other notes for any and all meetings held with the Department for Human Services between 1 Jan 2016 and 31 Dec 2016, inclusive.

I limit the scope of my request to formal meetings only.

The items listed in my request are aimed at defining the documents for the same set of meetings, rather than each item referring to a different set of meetings.

By referring to "diary extracts" I am referring to a printout of calendar data similar to Calendar Details Style in Outlook 2013 https://support.office.com/en-us/article...

By 'minutes and other notes' I mean the subsequent documentation that formally records the proceedings, discussions, outcomes, etc. of the meeting. Minutes is a commonly used term, but may also include other attachments or notes that form part of the formal record of the meeting.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: Ide, Gabrielle
Minister for Human Services


Attachment LEX 28895.pdf
626K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please see attached a letter from the Chief of Staff from the Office of
the Hon Alan Tudge MP, Andrew Asten.

 

This letter is an acknowledgement of your Freedom of Information Request.

 

Kind regards,

Gabrielle

 

Gabrielle Ide

Executive Assistant to the Hon. Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services

Parliament House   Canberra   ACT   2600

APH: 02 6277 7200 | EO: 03 9887 3890 | MOB: 0472 877 689

[1][email address]

 

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From: The Department of Human Services
Minister for Human Services

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Minister for Human Services

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Justin Warren left an annotation ()

The Minister's Chief of Staff has used their Symantec SecureMail facility to email a PDF which is an image scan of a letter.

I am only surprised the letter isn't an Excel spreadsheet embedded in a PowerPoint deck, using Comic Sans on US Letter format paper in Landscape.

Once I figure out how to get it back into text I'll try to post it here.

I mean, honestly. Our government cannot computer.

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Justin Warren left an annotation ()

I've uploaded the PDF here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3hu_c... so people can see it.

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From: The Department of Human Services
Minister for Human Services

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From: The Department of Human Services
Minister for Human Services

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Minister for Human Services

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Justin Warren left an annotation ()

They sent another SecureMail™ PDF about the charges. The PDF is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3hu_c9...

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Minister for Human Services,

Thank you for your letter of 25 May 2017 providing a preliminary notice of charges.

I object to the calculation of the charges. I contend that the charges should be reduced or waived in full.

The search and retrieval time of 12.83 hours seems excessive for locating a mere 35 documents. Part 1 of my request relates to a diary extract that is readily obtained by printing a calendar from Outlook and takes mere seconds.

Meeting agendas and minutes I expect would be stored in an electronic form such as Microsoft Word or Excel documents stored in some sort of organised structure. A simple shared filesystem with folders is a common example, and modern computers include a search function that is able to scan such systems readily. Documents in formats such as Word or Excel, commonly used for agendas and minutes, are easily scanned for keywords such as “Department of Human Services”. I therefore struggle to see how 12 hours is required for search and retrieval unless the Minister’s Office does not maintain a high quality record system.

Please explain in more detail why 12.83 hours is required for search and retrieval of the documents.

You have indicated that a total of 15.6 hours of decision making time is required to process approximately 53 pages of documents. This seems awfully slow.

Section 4.58 of the OAIC FOI Guidelines states, in part, “Unless the document at issue is particularly complex, it may be difficult for an agency or minister to adequately justify an estimate that it would take 10 minutes to process each page of the relevant documents.”

In ‘GD’ and Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet [2015] AICmr 46 [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/A... at 21, Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim states: “In previous IC review decisions, it has generally been considered that between 30 seconds per page, to 5 minutes per page is a reasonable estimate of the time required for an agency to assess and edit documents, except where the documents contain a substantial amount of sensitive information.”

Please explain in more detail why you believe each page will require an average 17.66 minutes of decision making time.

I further contend that the charges should be reduced or not imposed on public interest grounds.
In Dreyfus and Attorney-General (Commonwealth of Australia) (Freedom of information) [2015] AATA 995 [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/A... at 77 Jagot J noted “I consider that there is a significant public interest in knowing the outline of the daily activities of elected representatives”. This indicates that at least a portion of the charges should be waived on this basis.

The actions of the Minister and the Department of Human Services during 2016 have come under substantial scrutiny since at least January 2017 in relation to the Department’s handling of the Online Compliance Intervention (AKA robodebt) and related issues. There has been a Senate inquiry into the issue, and a multitude of press coverage. I contend that access to the documents requested is in the public interest as it will shed light on the governance of the Department by the Minister during several key times for the OCI program. They will also inform the public of the nature of other activities undertaken by the Department and how it kept the Minister informed of its activities; the Department undertakes many other activities other than the Online Compliance Intervention, and one would expect the Minister to be kept informed of them.

There has also been controversy regarding the Department briefing the Minister about individual customers and their personal circumstances. The case of Andie Fox gained particular focus in 2017, but both the Department and the Minister asserted that briefing the Minister about individual cases was both lawful and commonplace. I contend that knowing the relative frequency and nature of these briefings is in the public interest given that any one of us might be the subject of such a briefing if we were to complain about our treatment by the Department in the media or to our own MP. I expect that such information would be contained within the documents I have requested.

The FOI Guidelines, at 4.83, provide examples of how documents may be in the public interest. For example:

- “The document relates to a matter of public debate, or a policy issue under discussion within an agency, and disclosure of the document would assist public comment on or participation in the debate or discussion.” Understanding the Minister’s governance of the Department and how it administers social welfare is a certainly a matter of public debate, and the government has indicated in its latest budget and in public statements that it intends to expand the scrutiny of welfare recipients. Access to these documents would assist the general public to understand how the Department and programs such as OCI are governed.

- “The document relates to an agency decision that has been a topic of public interest or discussion, and disclosure of the document would better inform the public as to why or how the decision was made, including highlighting any problems or flaws that occurred in the decision-making process.” It is unclear how frequently the Minister meets with the Department and how much scrutiny its activities receive. Access to these documents will shed light on this matter.

- “The document would add to the public record on an important and recurring aspect of agency decision making.” A recent ANAO audit report on the Department (https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance... indicated that it is perhaps not as closely monitored as it should be and that its decisions are made in isolation. Access to these documents will shed light on this matter.

Notwithstanding my objection to the charges above, I intend to pay the deposit so that processing of my request can continue, as per section 4.11 of the FOI Guidelines: https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-infor...

In your letter you indicate that payment should be made by cheque or money order. Australia Post provides on online money order service that can be delivered by email (https://auspost.com.au/money-insurance/m... which has a lower cost than a posted physical money order. Does your office accept this form of payment? This would be in keeping with the objectives of the FOI Act to provide access to information at the lowest reasonable cost.

Please confirm if you do or do not accept emailed money orders from Australia Post.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: Asten, Andrew
Minister for Human Services

Dear Mr Warren

 

 

The Minister’s Office thanks you for your email of 30 May 2017. To assist
us in providing you with timely responses to your enquiries, for future
correspondence regarding this FOI request I would ask that you please use
the following email address: [1][email address]

 

The Minister’s Office notes that you have contested the processing charge
issued to you by way of a letter dated 24 May 2017 from the Minister’s
Office. A decision in respect of the reconsideration of the charge will be
provided to you by 29 June 2017.

 

The Minister’s Office also notes that, notwithstanding your application
for reconsideration of the charge, you have elected to pay the deposit of
$101.10. As noted in our correspondence on 24 May 2017, we ask that you
pay the deposit by cheque or money order made out to the Collector of
Public Monies.

 

Please quote the reference number FOI LEX 28895 with your payment and send
it to:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Human Services
Parliament House
CANBERRA  ACT  2600 

 

 

Regards

Andrew

 

Andrew Asten
Chief of Staff

Office of the Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services

EO: 03 9887 3890| APH: 02 6277 7200

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Mr Asten,

Thank you for your email dated 8 June 2017.

Unfortunately you have not answered my question regarding the use of Australia Post online money orders included in my email dated 30 May 2017.

Can you please confirm if you do, or do not, accept Australia Post online money orders?

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: MINISTER
Minister for Human Services

Thank you for your email. Your enquiries, comments, or concerns are always
welcome and often alert me to important issues.

 

While I receive a large number of emails, calls and letters each day,
either I or my department will reply to you as soon as possible.

 

If the matter requires urgent attention, please speak with the Department
of Human Services using one of the numbers available on the Department’s
website at [1]http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer...

 

Please be assured your rights to privacy will not be compromised in any
enquiries the Department undertakes.

 

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Human Services

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From: Asten, Andrew
Minister for Human Services

Dear Mr Warren,

Thank you for your email dated 20 June 2017.

The Minister’s Office cannot accept payment through the online money order service offered by Australia Post.

As noted in our email dated 8 June 2017, we ask that you pay the deposit by cheque or money order made out to the Collector of Public Monies.

Regards

Andrew Asten

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From: The Department of Human Services
Minister for Human Services

You have received a secure email from the Department of Human Services.

Please select the link below to view the email.
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Justin Warren left an annotation ()

I've uploaded the PDF sent via SecureMail here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3hu_c9...

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