Nepotism and patronage in Defence

Sarah Van Winkle made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Defence

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

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Department of Defence should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Sarah Van Winkle

I request all documents created in the last 12 months which address
patronage and nepotism in Defence recruitment processes. This includes matters such as:

1. Any complaints or concerns raised.
2. Any Defence response to such complaints including reports and/or recommendations made to delegates

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require

Sincerely yours

Sarah Van Winkle

FOI, Department of Defence


Good morning

Thank you for your email. Your email has been forwarded for consideration/action.

Kind regards

FOI Operations
(02) 62662200

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Hanna, Nicole MS, Department of Defence


Good afternoon Ms Van Winkle

I refer to your email below requesting access to documents. Unfortunately the request in its current form is not considered valid under section 15(2)(b) of the FOI Act [Requests for access] as you have not provided such specific information concerning the documents as is reasonably necessary to enable a responsible officer of the agency to identify them.

However, our office is required to assist you in revising the scope of your request to be for access to specific documents, should this be what you require. Accordingly, prior to the Department accepting your request I would seek clarification as to the documents you wish to obtain as there is some uncertainty as to the precise documents you seek. Note that I must be able to task the request out to the subject matter areas with certainty that the documents you seek can be identified to enable proper searches, hence the necessity for clarification. In particular, I would seek clarification as to whether or not you are seeking access to documents relating to the recruitment processes for APS employees or Defence Force Personnel - Army, Navy or Air Force.

Please note, that as the documents are likely to contain information other than your personal information you are likely to be charged a pro rata fee for the processing of your request.


In accordance with section 24AB of the FOI Act, Defence is required to consult with you.
Also, as required by subsection 24AB(2)(c) of the FOI Act, I am the nominated person with whom you should contact with a view of agreeing to one of the following options:

1. withdraw your request;
2. revise your request in accordance with the guidance provided above; or
3. indicate that you do not wish to revise your request;

You should note that, in accordance with section 24AB(9) of the FOI Act, Defence is only required to undertake the above consultation process once, and that you are required to contact me within 14 days of receipt of this notice. Should you require further time to respond, please contact me by 8 July 2016 to discuss.

Action required

If you do not contact me by the date mentioned above, or an additional period of time is not agreed, your request will be withdrawn.

Relevant Information about the FOI Act

The Guidelines issued by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner are available online at and the FOI Act is available at

Further correspondence

Unless advised to the contrary, our office will use your email address, [FOI #2033 email] as the primary means of communicating with you.

Point of contact details

I can be contacted by telephone on (02) 6266 2200 or via email at [email address]. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions in relation to this matter.


Nicole Hanna
FOI Case Officer
Information Management and Access
Governance and Reform Division
Department of Defence | CP1-6-003| PO Box 7910 | Canberra BC ACT 2610 | (02) 6266 4986 | Email [email address]

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Verity Pane left an annotation ()

Defence's response here has initiated what is know as a request consultation process. Under s 24 an agency may require an applicant to engage in a request consultation process if the agency believes there may be a practical refusal reason for refusing a request that substantially and unreasonably diverts the resources of the agency from its other operations or does not adequately identify the documents requested (ss 24, 24AA, 24AB).

Defence is arguing the applicant's FOI, as made, does not enable Defence to adequately identify the documents requested. Whether this is true or not, can only be determined by objective assessment.

The applicant sought "any complaints or concerns raised" and "any Defence response to such complaints including reports and/or recommendations made to delegates" relating to "patronage or nepotism" in the twelve months proceeding her FOI request.

A request can be described quite broadly and must be read fairly by an agency, and it would be unlawful for an agency to be deliberately obtuse, narrow or pedantic with its comprehension of said request [refer Re Anderson and AFP [1986] AATA 79 and Young v Wicks (1986) 79 ALR 448]. An applicant may describe a class of documents, or all documents of a specified class that contain information of a particular kind, or all documents held that mention a particular subject or person, and that is sufficient for the purposes of an FOI application.

In this case it is clear that the Applicant is requesting Defence to search all complaints and reports and other records relating to Defence Recruitment, for the proceeding twelve months, that have the words patronage or nepotism within them. That is sufficent information to enable Defence to conduct a search of Objective (its main corporate document information system), of Defence Force Recuiting division records, using those two keywords.

It would appear therefore that the request consultation process was used inappropriately in this case.