Remuneration of all Australia Post Employees
William Shakespeare made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Postal Corporation
This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.
Dear Australian Postal Corporation,
This is a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
I seek the latest document which details the salary ranges of all Australia Post employees, and the number of employees at each salary range.
Good morning Mr Shakespeare,
Find attached Australia Post's acknowledgement of your request.
Good afternoon Mr Shakespeare,
I refer to your Freedom of Information request received by Australia Post on 7/2/2017.
Find attached my decision.
[Australia Post request email]
Locutus Sum left an annotation ()
As Mr Fairless shows, it is a fascinating mix up but I am not so sure that it is malice that motivates the strange answer. In fact, all the information, swallowed in small mouthfuls, is correct even if the basis for the decision is wrong (and reviewable). So I think that most of the problem is a very poorly explained letter ... but without drops of malice and subversion.
To start, however, we must sort out the mess of information about "administratively", "no appeal rights" etc.
The officer says that she has searched, but can find "no single document identifying salary ranges for Australia Post employees, and the number of Australia Post employees within each salary range". This is probably correct, so the officer (who appears not to understand the relevance of s 17 of the Act) says that no relevant document exists, and she refuses the request on the basis of s 24A(1)(b)(ii). That is the correct basis for refusing to disclose documents that do not exist, but as Mr Fairless has explained, the request should have been treated as if the document did exist (s 17) because it can be constructed using the normal computer facilities that Australia Post uses every day. After the officer refuses the request, she correctly explains that the decision can be reviewed either by an internal reviewer or by the Information Commissioner. I say "correctly explains" because a refusal on the grounds of s 24A(1)(b)(ii) is an "access refusal decision", and an access refusal decision is reviewable.
It is after this that part that the letter gets confusing. The officer cannot find the single document that she thinks is required to satisfy the FOI request but she tries to help by giving a lot of extra useful information, including the number of employees who have different job titles. She also explains how this information can be linked (by the applicant) to information at the Fair Work Commission to discover information about salaries. She then says that because she is releasing this information administratively, the applicant does not have review rights about the information she has released. By the letter of the law, it is true to say that the administrative release of information is not reviewable but it is completely irrelevant. The applicant is not going to appeal against what was released! He is going to appeal about what was not released.
The request for review can say something this way:
Dear Australia Post,
I request an internal review of your decision (2017-03-07) to refuse to give me access to "the latest document which details the salary ranges of all Australia Post
employees, and the number of employees at each salary range". You refused my request on the basis of s 24A(1)(b)(ii).
I think you forgot to take into mind the requirements of s 17 of the Act. The effect of the section is that it requires you to behave as my document does exist if it is possible for you to construct it using the information that you store in your computers. I think that you must have the information about the salary range (employment band) of every person that works for you and that you could construct a document with the information that I would like. Please construct the relevant document and release it to me.
Locutus Sum left an annotation ()
I said in my last annotation that I though that the letter from the officer was "a very poorly explained letter ... but without drops of malice and subversion." I made an argument.
Now, today, I have seen another reponse (https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r... ) from the same officer at Australia Post. This time, the letter is much clearer and I think it is obvious that the officer is explaining to (a different) applicant that she has refused his FOI request and that the refusal is reviewable, but she has also provided some useful information outside of the framework of the FOI Act and that provision is not reviewable.
Note to Australia Post: A good and useful improvement in the clarity of your answers. Thank you.
Ben Fairless left an annotation ()
The decision here is fundamentally flawed. If the FOI Officer is able to provide the information she has provided, then the information must exist!
Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act covers a request involving the use of computers. It says that:
- If a request is made for information and the information isn't available in a discreet form in written forms by the agency and
- The person does not want the data on computer disk or tape and
- The agency can convert the data into written form by using a computer then
- the request should be considered as for that document (that is, the agency can be forced to create a document).
As the agency has done this "administratively", this appears to be a deliberate attempt to subvert your review rights. You still retain a right of review if you aren't happy with the information you're provided, as the decision was technically refused.