Policies on media responses to questions about boat arrivals

Michael Cordover made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Home Affairs

Department of Home Affairs did not have the information requested.

From: Michael Cordover

Delivered

Dear Department of Immigration and Citizenship,

I am seeking access under the FOI Act to any and all documents in the nature of policies, procedures or directions to the department, its staff and/or contractors, or documents amending or modifying the effect of the same, relating to making comment to the media, or issuing statements or releases to the media, which cover comments etc about unlawful boat arrivals or asylum seekers and which came into effect after 1 September 2013.

I am seeking a waiver of associated access charges on the basis that publication of these documents would be in the public interest. Disclosure of these documents would increase scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government's activities, an object of the FOI Act (s 3(2)(b)). In particular these documents would permit a greater and more informed discussion of the way in which the Government promotes scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of its activities.

I am happy to be contacted for more information by reply email.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Cordover

Link to this

From: FOI

UNCLASSIFIED
 
Our reference: FA 13/09/00989; ADF2013/30941
 
To Mr Michael Cordover
Via email: [1][FOI #413 email]
 
Dear Mr Cordover
 
Thank you for your request submitted to the Department on Saturday 21
September 2013 at 11.29 am, under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the
Act) for:
 
I am seeking access under the FOI Act to any and all documents in the
nature of policies, procedures or directions to the department, its staff
and/or contractors, or documents amending or modifying the effect of the
same, relating to making comment to the media, or issuing statements or
releases to the media, which cover comments etc about unlawful boat
arrivals or asylum seekers and which came into effect after 1 September
2013.
 
This email is to acknowledge the receipt of your request and to advise you
that the request has not been accepted as valid under the Act. I will set
out the reasons below. Before doing so, I will outline the requirements
for a valid FOI request.
 
In doing so, I hope to assist you to resubmit your request as one that the
agency can accept as valid.
 
I note that this request was followed 3 minutes later by a second request
([2][email address] ), in which you expanded
the request to include ‘staff within the Ministerial Office’. I will
address that second request in a separate email.
 
Requirements for a valid request
 
Section 15 of the Act provides that a person who wishes to obtain access
to a document of an agency may request access to that document. To be
valid, the request be in writing, state that the request is an application
under the Act and give details of how notices under the Act may be sent to
the applicant (ss.15(2)(a), (c) and (d) of the Act). Finally, the request
must ‘provide such information concerning the documents as is reasonably
necessary to enable a responsible officer of the agency, or the Minister,
to identify it’ (s.15(2)(b)). This provision allows an agency to balance
the resources it will need to use to identify and locate documents against
an applicant’s right to request access to the documents.
 
Application of s.15(2)(b) to your request
 
I am satisfied that your request does not meet the requirement in
s.15(2)(b) in that it does not provide information which will enable a
responsible officer to identify the documents you are seeking, without it
being a substantial and unreasonable diversion of the Commonwealth’s
resources to do so.
 
I note that the scope is expressed very broadly. For example, the phrase
‘any and all documents’ includes all emails, email chains, drafts,
different versions of drafts and duplicates/copies of the documents that
might fall in scope. I note also that the term ‘in the nature of policies,
procedures or directions…’ is so vague that it would not be possible to
identify the type of document you are seeking. These documents would range
from emails to departmental policies through to media releases.
 
In addition, the phrase ‘modifying the effect of the same’ has no meaning
in the context of departmental documents as amendments to policies will be
amendments to the documents, not amendments to the ‘effect of’ the
documents. Further, the phrase ‘relating to making comments to the media
or issuing statements or releases to the media’ would require the
Department to search an unreasonable number of routine administrative
communications to identify and locate potentially relevant documents. This
is despite the scope being limited to documents that came into ‘effect’
from 1 September 2013.
 
I note the request is limited to the topics of ‘unlawful boat arrivals or
asylum seekers’. However, the term ‘asylum seeker’ applies to any person
who has claimed protection under the Refugee Convention. As a result, the
scope of the request is broader than merely documents regarding media
statements about applicants under the Refugee Convention who have
attempted to travel to Australia by boat.
 
Finally, your scope includes all documents held or created by the
Department’s ‘staff and/or contractors’ that relate to the topic of the
request. As the Department has a range of contracts in place that might be
relevant to ‘unlawful boat arrivals and asylum seekers’, your current
scope would require the Department to ask each potentially relevant
contractor to search its records to determine whether it held any relevant
documents. It would assist your request if you were to identify which
contractor’s documents you wish to access.
 
Summary
 
I am satisfied that your request does not meet the requirements in
s.15(2)(b) of the Act and so is invalid. In the event that it were valid,
I am satisfied that it would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion
of the Department’s resources to try to identify documents that may fall
within the current scope of your request. As a result, I have closed this
request.
 
Way forward
 
You remain welcome to resubmit your request, taking into account the
advice I have set out above.
 
Your sincerely
 
Angela O'Neil
Manager FOI Help Desk
FOI & Privacy Policy Section
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Email: [3][email address]
 

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Michael Cordover

Delivered

Dear Angela,

Thank you for your email.

For clarity, my initial request (and this subsequent request) was not intended to encompass documents held by staff and/or contractors but was intended to encompass documents applying to or directing staff and/or contractors.

You'll forgive me for not being au fait with the structure of the Department or its document control practice.

I am, by this email, submitting a new FOI request of more limited scope. That request is as follows:

I am seeking access to any and all documents which constitute policies, procedures or directions to the department, relating to making comment to the media, or issuing statements or releases to the media, which cover comments etc about unlawful boat arrivals and which were created or last amended after 1 September 2013 and (if practicable) in the form they were in on 21 September 2013.

For clarity, this request excludes email chains, drafts, different versions of drafts and duplicates/copies. This request excludes individual emails except to the extent they constitute directions to the department. I am not seeking documents which constitute routine administrative communications except to the extent they constitute directions to the department.

I am only seeking policies, procedures and directions of general application regarding making statements to the media. I am not seeking directions which apply only to particular cases, nor to directions which apply only to particular staff, contractors, organisational units etc (except those directed to the communications unit, spokespeople or other staff who have regular dealings with the media).

I am seeking documents the subject of which is media comment (including statements and releases). I am not seeking documents which, for example, describe how to respond to a particular type of incident and mention that media requests for comment should be directed in a particular way. I am not seeking documents which apply only to social media or general publication of information.

I am again seeking a waiver of associated access charges on the basis that publication of these documents would be in the public interest. Disclosure of these documents would increase scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of the Government's activities, an object of the FOI Act (s 3(2)(b)). In particular these documents would permit a greater and more informed discussion of the way in which the Government promotes scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of its activities.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cordover

Link to this

From: FOI

UNCLASSIFIED
 
Good morning Mr Cordover
 
Thank you for your new request. I can advise you that it will be
registered as a valid request. You will receive a new FA number later
today and the request will be allocated to an authorised decision maker in
due course.
 
In relation to your request for a waiver of all charges, I can advise you
that the request will be processed according to the routine processes
under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Act) and in line with
current government policy. This will include the decision maker assessing
the documents for charges under s.29 of the Act and determining whether to
issue you with a 'charges notice'. Any such notice will include an
opportunity for you to provide detailed reasons why charges should not be
imposed or why they should be decreased. The decision maker will consider
your views before reaching a final decision on the charges and notifying
you of the charges decision. The charges decision will also advise you of
your review rights.
 
I hope this assists you to better understand the ‘charges’ processes under
the Act.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Angela O'Neil
Manager FOI Help Desk
FOI & Privacy Policy Section
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Telephone: 02 6264 1382
Email: [1][email address]
 

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: FOI


Attachment Acknowledgement FA 13.10.00365.pdf
237K Download View as HTML


UNCLASSIFIED

Our references: FA 13/10/00365; ADF2013/32869

 

Good morning Mr Cordover

 

Please find attached the acknowledgement of receipt for your recent FOI
Request. 

 

Yours sincerely

Janelle

__________________________________

Janelle Raineri

FOI Inbox Manager

FOI & Privacy Policy Section
Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Email: [1][email address]

 

Please note I work from 6:30AM to 2:30PM Monday to Friday

 

UNCLASSIFIED

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

From: FOI

UNCLASSIFIED

Our references: FA 13/10/00365;  ADF2013/32869

                                                                    

 

Dear Mr Cordover

 

Re: Your Freedom of Information request

 

I am writing to inform you that I have been appointed as the authorised
decision maker on your FOI request for:

 

I am seeking access to any and all documents which constitute policies,
procedures or directions to the department, relating to making comment to
the media, or issuing statements or releases to the media, which cover
comments etc about unlawful boat arrivals and which were created or last
amended after 1 September 2013 and (if practicable) in the form they were
in on 21 September 2013.

 

For clarity, this request excludes email chains, drafts, different
versions of drafts and duplicates/copies. This request excludes individual
emails except to the extent they constitute directions to the department.
I am not seeking documents which constitute routine administrative
communications except to the extent they constitute directions to the
department.

 

I am only seeking policies, procedures and directions of general
application regarding making statements to the media. I am not seeking
directions which apply only to particular cases, nor to directions which
apply only to particular staff, contractors, organisational units etc
(except those directed to the communications unit, spokespeople or other
staff who have regular dealings with the media).

 

I am seeking documents the subject of which is media comment (including
statements and releases). I am not seeking documents which, for example,
describe how to respond to a particular type of incident and mention that
media requests for comment should be directed in a particular way. I am
not seeking documents which apply only to social media or general
publication of information.

 

As part of DIAC's FOI service standard, I will update you every 14 days
regarding progress of your request. However, please do not hesitate to
contact me if you have any questions or wish to discuss the request in the
interim.

 

I am writing to advise you that DIAC has not as yet identified all the
relevant documents. As a result, I am in consultation with the relevant
business areas regarding the searches for relevant documents

 

Regards

 

Steven Hocking
Assistant Director
Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Telephone: (02) 6264 1007
Email: [1][email address]

UNCLASSIFIED

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

From: FOI


Attachment FA 131000365 Cordover Signed s.24A.pdf
576K Download View as HTML


UNCLASSIFIED

Our references: FA 13/10/00365; ADF2013/32869

 

 

Dear Mr Cordover,

 

I refer to your request FA 13/10/00365, received on 4 October 2013 for the
following:

 

I am seeking access to any and all documents which constitute policies,
procedures or directions to the department, relating to making comment to
the media, or issuing statements or releases to the media, which cover
comments etc about unlawful boat arrivals and which were created or last
amended after 1 September 2013 and (if practicable) in the form they were
in on 21 September 2013.

 

For clarity, this request excludes email chains, drafts, different
versions of drafts and duplicates/copies. This request excludes individual
emails except to the extent they constitute directions to the department.
I am not seeking documents which constitute routine administrative
communications except to the extent they constitute directions to the
department.

 

I am only seeking policies, procedures and directions of general
application regarding making statements to the media. I am not seeking
directions which apply only to particular cases, nor to directions which
apply only to particular staff, contractors, organisational units etc
(except those directed to the communications unit, spokespeople or other
staff who have regular dealings with the media).

 

I am seeking documents the subject of which is media comment (including
statements and releases). I am not seeking documents which, for example,
describe how to respond to a particular type of incident and mention that
media requests for comment should be directed in a particular way. I am
not seeking documents which apply only to social media or general
publication of information.

 

I have made a final decision on this request.

 

Please see attached my signed Decision Letter and Decision Record.

 

This request has now been closed.

 

Regards

 

Steven Hocking
Assistant Director
Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Telephone: (02) 6264 1007
Email: [1][email address]

 

UNCLASSIFIED

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Home Affairs only: