Principality of Hutt River Province

Ben Garrett made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The request was successful.

From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

I hereby respectfully request under the Freedom of Information Act (1982), all documents both electronic and hard copy concerning that of the Principality of Hutt River Province, since record keeping began including but not limited to the following,

(a) diplomatic cables.

(b) any files from the Domestic Legal Branch concerning the Principality of Hutt River Province you have in your possession or have access to.

(c) any files from the Australian Passports Office concerning the Principality of Hutt River Province you have in your possession or have access to.

I also make the application that all costs for the processing of this request be waived on the grounds but not limited to, that the release of this information would be of significant historical benefit, and interest to the people of Australia.

Yours faithfully,

Ben Garrett

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Ben Garrett left an annotation ()

For those who are not aware of the Principality of Hutt River Province, it is an independent sovereign state which came about in 1972. It is situated near Geraldton in Western Australia and was created by Mr Leonard Casley, who was feed up with the government at the time placing a limit on the amount of wheat that could be grown by farmers.

Mr Casley resorted to international law declared he was to secede from the Commonwealth of Australia in which he did successfully. The Principality issues Passports, have a post office, accept citizens, issue currency, register companies, issue stamps ect. The reported Australian governments stance on the Principality is that they do not officially recognise it.

When the Principality of Hutt River seceded they drafted a bill of rights, and Mr Casley declared himself Price Leonard. It is also of worthy note that Prince Leonard declared war on Australia in 1977 after repeated requests for the payment of taxes from the ATO, and Australia post refusing to handle mail from the Principality. He notified Authorities of the cessation of hostilities after several days, and after a court case the mail services resumed and the taxation requests also ceased. Residents of the Principality are considered Non Residents of Australia for taxation purposes.

I would like to however give credit where credit is due, upon my research of the Hutt River Province I came across an organisation called Small Freedoms who had also requested this information from the Department of Foreign Affairs, however their website has not been updated for a period of time, and there has been no response posted of their requests.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank the creators of the organisation mentioned above, and Right to know. For giving me the inspiration to request this information myself, under the Freedom of Information Act to share with the people of Australia.

Yours sincerely

Ben Garrett

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Geordie Guy left an annotation ()

LOL yeah no.

Hutt River Province is an example, albeit an infamous one, of what's called "bush lawyers" or "Freeman on the land", a range of circumstances where nutbars avail themselves of instruments of law that don't actually support their nonsense.

The area declared to be Hutt River Province is the Commonwealth of Australia. I'd be stunned if anyone in the target of your FOI request actually had the vaguest idea what you are talking about.

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Dear Mr Garrett,

Thank you for your below application for documents under FOI.

I note that a request for 'all documents since record keeping began' is inconsistent with the FOI Act (available at: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/c.... Section 13 (1)(d) of the Act states:

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1982 - SECT 13
Documents in certain institutions
(1) A document shall not be deemed to be a document of an agency for the purposes of this Act by reason of its being:
...
(d) in the care (within the meaning of the Archives Act 1983 ) of the National Archives of Australia (otherwise than as a document relating to the administration of the National Archives of Australia); ...

The meaning of this section is elaborated in the FOI Guidelines issued by the Office of the Australian information Commissioner (available at: http://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-inform...

Documents open to public access
3.24 A person is not entitled to obtain access to a document under the FOI Act if:
the document or a copy of it is within the open access period as defined in the Archives Act, unless the document contains personal information, including personal information about a deceased person (s 12(1)(a) — see Part 1 of these Guidelines for information about the open access period)

Therefore, all documents on Hutt River Province which fall within the open access period of the Archives Act would be excluded from the scope of your request.

Concerning part (a) of your request, please note that some cables relevant to your request have already been released under FOI. They are on DFAT's FOI disclosure log, at http://www.dfat.gov.au/foi/disclosure-lo.... As these documents are already publicly available, they will not be considered to be within the scope of your request.

However, even taking the above comments into consideration, your request would be too large for DFAT to process without an unreasonable diversion of the Department's resources (see section 24 of the FOI Act). The relevant cables alone comprise over 200 pages, the files held by the Domestic Legal Branch (most of which would be exempt from release as they comprise either the personal information of individuals, or legal advice) consist of over 300 pages of documents, and other 15 other relevant files containing a currently unknown of documents. For your information, DFAT were to process an application of the size of the known numbers of documents, the charges would be in the region of $3000.

I therefore give notice of intention to refuse your request. The formal notice I am required to send you is as follows:

Section 24 – Power to refuse request

In relation to documents which fall under the scope of your FOI request, I advise as follows. As currently framed, your request would extracting an excessive number of documents and would require excessive resources to be allocated to decision-making regarding what can and cannot legally be released from those documents under FOI.

Accordingly, I give notice of my intention to refuse your FOI request on the grounds of section 24AA of the FOI Act. The basis for this intention to refuse your request is that it would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the Department from its other operations.

Formal notice of intention to refuse access

I advise that a practical refusal reason exists in relation to your FOI request as currently framed, within the meaning of s24 of the FOI Act. In line with the requirements of the FOI Act, s24AA(2), in forming the view that the work involved would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of DFAT from its other operations, DFAT has had regard to the resources that would have to be used for:

(a) identifying, locating or collating the documents within the filing system of the agency

- given the large number of documents created which relate to this subject, the resources that would have to be used for this would be more than the maximum resources which DFAT can allocate to an FOI request.

(b) making a copy, or an edited copy, of the document

- given the large number of documents, preparing edited copies could be expected to require the allocation of more than the maximum resources which DFAT can allocate to these components of an FOI request.

(c) notifying any interim or final decision on the request

- the main obstacle which triggers the practical refusal reason in this case is the locating and making of edited copies following decision-making on relevant documents. It is not clear whether the resources required for notifying an interim or final decision would be unreasonable.

In accordance with s24AB(2) of the FOI Act, I therefore give written notice that:

(a) DFAT intends to refuse access to the documents you have requested.

(b) the applicable practical refusal reason is as outlined above, that processing the request would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of DFAT.

(c) I am the DFAT officer with whom you may consult during the “consultation period”.

(d) the consultation period during which you may consult with me is the coming 14 days, from 26 June to 10 July 2013.

Please note that the above notice does not constitute a decision to refuse your request, it is merely a notice of the intention to refuse. Should a decision to actually refuse your request be taken (on 11 July 2013), you would have the ability to appeal that decision and details of how to do so would be provided to you at that time.

I invite you to make contact at your convenience so that we can commence discussions about a targeted scope for the request which would provide you with information you are seeking.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Ada Cheung
a/g Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
International Law Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel: +61 2 6261 3470
Fax: +61 2 6261 2144

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From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Dr Ada Cheung,

Thank you kindly for your prompt response, I wish to formally revise the scope of my FOI request to the following,

I in good faith request under the Freedom of information act 1982,

(a) existing diplomatic cable documents concerning that of the Principality of Hutt River excluding,

1. diplomatic cable documents concerning that of the Principality of Hutt River that are within the open access period as defined in the Archives Act 1983.

2. diplomatic cable documents concerning that of the Principality of Hutt River that have already been released under the FOI Act.

(b) Details in regards to the period of dates or years of files held by the Domestic Legal Branch in regards to the Principality of Hutt River Province. Example: 1970-2013

I also make the application that all costs for the processing of this request be waived on the grounds but not limited to, that the release of this information would be of significant historical
benefit, and interest to the people of Australia.

Yours faithfully,

Ben Garrett

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment DOC167.PDF.pdf
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Dear Mr Garrett,

Thank you for the proposed re-scope of your FOI request for:

'Existing diplomatic cable documents concerning that of the Principality of Hutt River, excluding those that are within the open access period as defined in the Archives Act 1983 and those which have already been released under the FOI Act.'

Please note that this is considered to be a new request and that your original request will be considered to have been withdrawn. The new reference number is 1306-F594.

Please find attached the charges letter relating to your request. I have noted your request for a waiver of the charges on the grounds that release of this information would be of significant historical benefit. As the Archives Act is the established mechanism for the public release of material of historical interest, and also taking into account the fact that there has been no public interest in Hutt River Province as evidenced in the mainstream media in recent years, I do not find this a compelling reason to waive the processing charges. Please note that section 29 of the FOI Act provides 30 days from today in which you can make further submissions for reduction or waiver of the charges.

For your information, the earliest file currently held by Domestic Legal Branch was created in 2008. Earlier files which fall within section 13 of the FOI Act have been transferred to the National Archives of Australia, but can be retrieved by the Department if required; the earliest dated file was created in 1992 - some of the older file numbers do not have an embedded date.

Yours sincerely,

Ada Cheung
a/g Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
International Law Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel: +61 2 6261 3470
Fax: +61 2 6261 2144

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From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Ada Cheung,

I thank you once again for your prompt reply to my previous correspondence, I wish to apply for the Department to waive or reduce the charge for my FOI request, for reasons as outlined below.

One could argue that you yourself have outlined in previous correspondence with me, that there has been FOI requests relevant to the Principality of Hutt River released as recently as 19th June 2013 (FOI request number 13/6473). And from the links* to just a sample of the number of both Local and International media articles, and government agency notices that have been made available to the public in recent years, which I have included for your attention below.

That there is in fact a distinct level of public interest not only in Australia but also on an International level in that of the Principality of Hutt River Province. To warrant a waiving of the fees associated with this FOI request, or in the very least that consideration is given to reduce the charges as you have currently stated. On the grounds of it being in the general public interest, or in the interest of a substantial section of the public both not only in Australia but also Internationally.

If I may also most respectfully bring to your attention the FOI guidelines issued by the Office of the Australian information Commissioner Part 4 Charges for Providing Access, the Guiding principles state,

4.2 An agency or minister has a discretion to impose or not impose a charge, or impose a charge that is lower than the applicable charge under reg 3 of the Charges Regulations.
In exercising that discretion the agency or minister should take account of the ‘lowest reasonable cost’ objective, stated in the objects clause of the FOI Act (s 3(4)):

… functions and powers given by this Act are to be performed and exercised, as far as possible, to facilitate and promote public access to information, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost.

4.3 A charge must not be used to discourage an applicant from exercising the right of access conferred by the FOI Act. Rather, charges should fairly reflect the work involved in providing access to documents on request. Implicit in the lowest reasonable cost objective is a prerequisite for sound record keeping so that an agency’s documents can be readily identified and found when an FOI request is received.

*Links

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/bre...

http://www.ato.gov.au/General/Tax-planni...

http://australia.gov.au/faq/hutt-river-p...

http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2...

http://www.uae.embassy.gov.au/abud/huttr...

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/crime/...

http://www.aaj.tv/2008/03/ambassador-of-...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/world/...

http://www.theage.com.au/national/a-mans...

http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/hutt-r...

http://www.smh.com.au/business/some-like...

http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/eterni...

I also respectfully request clarification as to the total number of diplomatic cables, or the total number of pages that have been included in my current FOI request that have been found in preliminary searches.

Yours Sincerely

Mr Ben Garrett

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From: FOI
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment DOC185.PDF.pdf
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Dear Mr Garrett,

Please find attached my decision regarding your request for waiver of the charges relating to your FOI request. I have decided to reduce the charges by 50% on public interest grounds.

Yours sincerely,

Ada Cheung
a/g Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
International Law Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel: +61 2 6261 3470
Fax: +61 2 6261 2144

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From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Ada Cheung,

Thank you for your email on 8th July 2013, I am writing to confirm I have on this day Tuesday 9th July 2013 sent a money order MO No: 6626626847 for the Freedom of Information Request FOI ref: 1306-F594 File No: 13/10648 to The National Cashier DFAT,

Freedom of Information and Privacy law Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
RG Case Building.
John McEwan Crescent
BARTON ACT 0221

Yours Sincerely

Mr Ben Garrett

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment DOC002.PDF.pdf
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Dear Mr Garrett,

Please find attached the receipt for your payment of the deposit of the charges relating to this FOI request.

Yours sincerely,

Ada Cheung
a/g Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
International Law Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel: +61 2 6261 3470
Fax: +61 2 6261 2144

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From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Ada Cheung,

Thank you for the confirmation that you received my payment for the deposit fee, please keep me informed of the progress of the processing of my FOI request.

Yours sincerely

Ben Garrett

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From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Ada Cheung,

I wish to seek clarification and to raise my concern as to the length of time it is taking for the processing of my FOI request ref: (1306-F594) File No: 13/10648. I received confirmation from yourself on July 15th 2013 that you had received my deposit fee, could you please inform me as to the reasons for this delay, and when you expect the processing of this FOI request to be completed?.

Yours sincerely,

Ben Garrett

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Dear Mr Garrett,

There has been no delay in processing your request, which is progressing.

Section 31 of the FOI Act states that the processing period is to be calculated disregarding the period when the charges are unpaid. In other words, the 30-day statutory clock was suspended from 28 June, when the original charges letter was sent to you, until 15 July , when the deposit was received by DFAT. Therefore, there are 20 days remaining for the department to finalise your request, which is due on 13 August.

Also, please note Regulation 11(1) of the FOI (Charges) Statutory Regulations, which states that the charge shall be paid before access it granted to the documents. If DFAT has not received the balance of the charges by 13 August, we will send you the decision letter only. In accordance with the Charges Regulations, the documents will not be released until the balance is paid.

Yours sincerely,

Ada Cheung
a/g Director
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
International Law Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel: +61 2 6261 3470
Fax: +61 2 6261 2144

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From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Ada Cheung,

I am writing to confirm I have on this day Monday 5th August 2013 sent a money order MO No: 6626629367 via Registered Post AP Article Id: 505335890017 for the Freedom of Information Request FOI ref: 1306-F594 File No: 13/10648 for the amount of $380.50 to The National Cashier DFAT,

Freedom of Information and Privacy law Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
RG Case Building.
John McEwan Crescent
BARTON ACT 0221

Yours sincerely

Mr Ben Garrett

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

I am out of the office unil 6 August 2013.

If the matter is urgent, please contact Indra McCormick on 6261 3056.

 

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment E2FF144E7E427DF185FE0024817F8086 1.pdf
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Dear Mr Garrett,

Please find attached the receipt for your payment of the balance of the charges owing for your FOI request.

Yours sincerely,

Ada Cheung
Executive Officer
Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Domestic Law Branch
International Law Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tel: +61 2 6261 3470
Fax: +61 2 6261 2144

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From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Ada Cheung

I wish to seek clarification as to the progress of my FOI request, in an email on the 24th July you stated that the department had until August 13 to finalise my FOI request. I also received confirmation from yourself that you had received the balance of charges for my FOI request on the 7th August.

Your sincerely

Mr Ben Garrett

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment 1306 F594 decision letter.pdf
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Attachment 1306 F594 schedule.pdf
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Dear Mr Garrett,
 
Please find attached the decision-maker’s letter and the document schedule
relating to your FOI request. 
 
Due to the size of the file, the documents being released will follow in
three tranches.
 
Yours sincerely,
 

Ada Cheung
Executive Officer
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Freedom of Information & Privacy Law      E |  [1][email address]
Section

Domestic Legal Branch      T |  +61 2 6261 3470

International Organisations & Legal Division W |  [2]www.dfat.gov.au

 
 
 

References

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1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.dfat.gov.au/

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment F594 release 1.PDF.pdf
1.4M Download View as HTML


 
 

Ada Cheung
Executive Officer
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Freedom of Information & Privacy Law      E |  [1][email address]
Section

Domestic Legal Branch      T |  +61 2 6261 3470

International Organisations & Legal Division W |  [2]www.dfat.gov.au

 
 
 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.dfat.gov.au/

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment F594 release 2.PDF.pdf
1.5M Download View as HTML


 
 

Ada Cheung
Executive Officer
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Freedom of Information & Privacy Law      E |  [1][email address]
Section

Domestic Legal Branch      T |  +61 2 6261 3470

International Organisations & Legal Division W |  [2]www.dfat.gov.au

 
 
 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.dfat.gov.au/

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From: Cheung, Ada
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Attachment F594 release 3.PDF.pdf
988K Download View as HTML


 
 

Ada Cheung
Executive Officer
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Freedom of Information & Privacy Law      E |  [1][email address]
Section

Domestic Legal Branch      T |  +61 2 6261 3470

International Organisations & Legal Division W |  [2]www.dfat.gov.au

 
 
 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.dfat.gov.au/

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From: Ben Garrett

Delivered

Dear Ada Cheung,

Thank you for providing me with the information I requested, many thanks

Yours sincerely,

Ben Garrett

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Gaz left an annotation ()

Thank you Ben Garrett for all your effort and money expended to allow us to have a bit more freedom of information of our Government files on this issue.

It is a pity that they deem fit to reject or redact all legal argument and "negative" correspondence of this case, probably in regard to "undermining" the confidence of The Commonwealth of Australia.

Quite interestingly, despite all of its official rhetoric, the Commonwealth Government has not been successful in shutting down the Province nor has the ATO found the power to tax it!

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Ben Garrett left an annotation ()

Dear Gaz,

Thank you for your kind words, I found this exercise an interesting experience and just a small sample of the bureaucracy involved in simply trying to achieve some transparency from our Government. In the very least it has taught me how to interact with our government officials, and as I have discovered it isn't just a case of speaking to another person as a person, it appears that there's just a little bit more involved in it than that.

Kind Regards

Ben

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade only: