Request for documents in relation to the investigation of suspected breaches of s 65 of the PID Act, and about prosecution of suspected offences

The request was partially successful.

Dear Attorney-General's Department,

On 20 March 2022 I made a request to the APSC for selection documents relating to the selection of the National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - QLD and National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - WA of the Federal Court (see vacancy NN 10725159 in on pages 34-36 in Public Service Gazette No PS19 published on 10 May 2018). The request can be seen here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s....

On 25 March 2022 Ms Giorgina Strangio, the Assistant Commissioner for Integrity, Performance and Employment Policy in the Australian Public Service Commission, made an access decision and provided me with redacted copies of the selection reports: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s....

On 27 March 2022 I requested an internal review of Ms Strangio's decision on the ground that the redactions were too extensive: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s...

On 4 April 2022 Mr Patrick Hetherington, the First Assistant Commissioner in the Australian Public Service Commission, provided a decision pursuant to my internal review request. Mr Hetherington made a fresh decision and removed some of the redactions that Ms Strangio had made to the selection reports: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s...

On 5 April 2022 I made a request to the APSC for selection documents relating to the selection of the NCF Registrar (NN 10690165 in Public Service Gazette No PS38 of 2016, published on 21 September 2016). The request can be seen here: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s.... The document is a similar document to the selection reports released to me by Ms Strangio and Mr Hetherington on 25 March 2022 and 4 April 2022

Ms Giorgina Strangio refused access to the document: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/s....

One of her reasons for refusing to grant access was that the selection report for vacancy NN 10690165 was provided to the APSC in the course of a PID investigation (much like the selection reports for the National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - QLD and National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - WA vacancies). According to an article published in the Australian on 29 March 2022, that PID investigation is subject to an investigation under the Ombudsman Act (a Category 4 investigation). In a mealy mouthed way, Ms Strangio claims that granting access to the selection report for vacancy NN 10690165 would undermine the secrecy provision (s 65) of the PID Act.

Section 65 of the PID Act provides:

(1) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person has information (protected information) that the person obtained:
(i) in the course of conducting a disclosure investigation; or
(ii) in connection with the performance of a function, or the exercise of a power, by the person under this Act; and
(b) the person:
(i) discloses the information to another person; or
(ii) uses the information.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 2 years or 120 penalty units, or both.

If Ms Strangio genuinely believes that disclosing information that is contained in documents that were obtained in the course of a disclosure investigation to people is a contravention of s 65 of the PID Act, and if she is correct, then, in providing the selection reports for the National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - QLD and National Judicial Registrar & District Registrar - WA vacancies that Murray Belcher and Russell Trott were "promoted" to, she contravented section 65. A person who contravenes s 65 commits an indictable offence, which is punishable by imprisonment for 2 years or 120 penalty units, or both. Accordingly, Ms Strangio, the Assistant Commissioner for Integrity, Performance and Employment Policy in the Australian Public Service Commission, and Mr Hetherington, the First Assistant Commissioner in the Australian Public Service Commission, would have committed offences.

Under the FOI Act, but for access to the Agency Guide to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (version 2), I request access to any and all documents held by the AGD that set out:

a) how investigations of suspected offences (generally) are to be investigated internally (that is, in the AGD);
b) how investigations of contraventions of s 65 of the PID Act are to be investigated internally (that is, in the AGD);
c) how referrals to investigative bodies are to be made if a person is suspected of contravening s 65 of the PID Act; and
d) anything about how the referral of suspected offences under s 65 of the PID Act are to made from an investigative body to a prosecutorial body.

Yours faithfully,

Marcus

FOI Requests, Attorney-General's Department

1 Attachment

OFFICIAL

 

Dear Marcus

Freedom of Information Request FOI22/078

I refer to your request to the Attorney-General's Department (the
department) under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) for access
to documents.

Your request is for:

I request access to any and all documents held by the AGD that set out:

a) how investigations of suspected offences (generally) are to be
investigated internally (that is, in the AGD);

b) how investigations of contraventions of s 65 of the PID Act are to be
investigated internally (that is, in the AGD);

c) how referrals to investigative bodies are to be made if a person is
suspected of contravening s 65 of the PID Act; and

d) anything about how the referral of suspected offences under s 65 of the
PID Act are to made from an investigative body to a prosecutorial body.

If you disagree with this interpretation of your request, please let me
know in writing as soon as possible.

The department received your request on 9 April 2022 and the 30 day
statutory period for processing your request commenced from the day after
that date. You should therefore expect a decision from us by 9 May 2022.
However, the period of 30 days may be extended if the department needs to
consult third parties or for other reasons. We will advise you if this
happens.

The department's practice is to not disclose personal information of staff
of the department and other government authorities, where that information
is not publicly known or routinely disclosed (e.g. names of junior
officers and contact information). The names of senior officers will
generally be disclosed. In addition, duplicates and incomplete email
chains within the scope of the FOI request will be excluded.

Please note that, with some exceptions (such as personal information),
documents released under the FOI Act may later be published online on the
department's disclosure log
[1]http://www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtection....

If you have any questions, please contact me by telephone on (02) 6141
6666 or by email to [2][AGD request email].

Yours sincerely

Euphrasia

FOI Officer

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Dear AGD,

A decision was due yesterday. No written decision was provided so a deemed refusal decision, made by the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, is taken to be in force.

Does the AGD have any intention of responding to the FOI request that I made on 9 April 2022?

Yours sincerely,

Marcus

FOI Requests, Attorney-General's Department

OFFICIAL
Dear Marcus,

Thank you for your email. The decision for your request is close to finalisation, however the department was unable to finalise consultations in relation to your request due to staff shortages and Covid-19 restrictions on its staff.

We have therefore requested an extension of time from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to Friday, 20 May 2022.

Please be assured that we are working to finalise this decision as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely
Euphrasia
FOI Officer
_____________________________________________________
Freedom of Information and Privacy Section
Strategy and Governance Branch
Attorney-General's Department
T: 02 6241 6666 E: [AGD request email]

OFFICIAL

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Summen Sarwar,

6 Attachments

Dear Applicant and FOI Contact Officer

 

Please see attached decision regarding the Attorney-general's Department’s
application for an extension of time to process FOI request FOI22/078.

Kind regards

 

[1][IMG]   Summen Sarwar   |  Assistant Review and
Investigation Advisor

Investigations and Compliance
Freedom of Information Regulatory Group

Office of the Australian Information
Commissioner

GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001  |
 [2]oaic.gov.au

+61 2 9284 9815  | 
[3][email address]  
[4][IMG] | [5][IMG] | [6][IMG] |   [7]Subscribe to Information
Matters

 

 

 

 

 

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FOI Requests, Attorney-General's Department

3 Attachments

OFFICIAL

 

Dear Marcus

Freedom of Information Request FOI22/078

I refer to your request to the Attorney-General's Department (the
department) under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) for access
to documents. 

The purpose of this email is to provide you with a decision in response to
that request. 

Please find attached:

·      decision letter, including:

o review rights,
o schedule of documents,
o statement of reasons, and

·      documents.

If you have any questions, please contact me by telephone on (02) 6141
6666 or by email to [1][AGD request email].

Yours sincerely

Euphrasia

FOI Officer

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