Resolution of frozen UK State Pensions issue

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

Dear Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

Foreign Minister Marise Payne welcomed UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to Australia on Thursday, e.g. see https://twitter.com/MarisePayne/status/1... thus giving the Australian Government another chance to resolve the frozen UK State Pension issue. As we all know from much previous correspondence, most recently, in my case, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan's 20 September 2021 letter to Senator Andrew Bragg, the Australian Government repeatedly assures us that it

"will continue to press the issue with our UK counterparts on behalf of UK pensioners in Australia"

so I feel confident that it will have made another attempt to resolve the issue on this occasion, even though DFAT appears to have neglected to report on this in https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minis...

1. Could you please provide me with any documents that DFAT holds that shows that the Australian Government attempted to resolve the frozen UK State Pension issue with the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her staff during her recent visit.

2. If the Australian Government DID NOT attempt to resolve the frozen UK State Pension issue with the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her staff during her recent visit, could you please provide me with any documents that DFAT holds that shows why the Australian Government did not attempt to resolve this issue on this occasion.

3. If the Australian Government was once again ineffective in its attempt to resolve the frozen UK State Pension issue during this visit, could you please provide me with any documents that contain analyses that DFAT has done investigating the reason for the failure, and attempting to develop a more effective strategy for future attempts.

4. If DFAT does not hold any documents that are covered by point 3, could you please provide me with any documents that DFAT holds that shows why it does not attempt to improve its performance in resolving the frozen UK State Pension issue by analysing its past performance.

I see that DFAT regularly asks for an extension of time to process a request, e.g. https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/2... If this applies to this request, could you please specify the date on which the extension expires so that there is no confusion over the due date for DFAT's response.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Swain

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

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Sent request to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade again.

FOI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

1 Attachment

OFFICIAL

 

 

FOI Request: LEX5086

 

Dear Mr Swain  

 

Thank you for your email dated 15 February 2022 seeking access to
documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

 

This email sets out some information about how your request will be
processed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

 

Scope of request:

You have sought access to:

 

“1. Could you please provide me with any documents that DFAT holds that
shows that the Australian Government attempted to resolve the frozen UK
State Pension issue with the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her staff
during her recent visit.

2. If the Australian Government DID NOT attempt to resolve the frozen UK
State Pension issue with the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her staff
during her recent visit, could you please provide me with any documents
that DFAT holds that shows why the Australian Government did not attempt
to resolve this issue on this occasion.

3. If the Australian Government was once again ineffective in its attempt
to resolve the frozen UK State Pension issue during this visit, could you
please provide me with any documents that contain analyses that DFAT has
done investigating the reason for the failure, and attempting to develop a
more effective strategy for future attempts.

4. If DFAT does not hold any documents that are covered by point 3, could
you please provide me with any documents that DFAT holds that shows why it
does not attempt to improve its performance in resolving the frozen UK
State Pension issue by analysing its past performance.

I see that DFAT regularly asks for an extension of time to process a
request, If this applies to this request, could you please specify the
date on which the extension expires so that there is no confusion over the
due date for DFAT's response.”
 

 

If it emerges that the scope of your request is unclear or is too large
for processing, the department will contact you to discuss re-scoping the
request.

 

Timeframe for receiving our decision:

We received your request on 15 February 2022, and the 30-day statutory
period for processing your request commenced from the day after that date.
The period of 30 days may be extended in certain circumstances. 

 

Charges:

Please note that the Department may issue charges for processing FOI
requests.  If applicable, we will advise you of any relevant charges when
we are in a position to estimate the resources required to process your
request.

 

Disclosure log:

Please note that, with some exceptions (such as personal information),
documents released under the FOI Act may later be published on the
department’s disclosure log:
[1]https://www.dfat.gov.au/about-us/corpora....

 

Exclusion of officials’ names and contact details:

It is the Department’s policy to withhold the mobile numbers of all
government officials, and the names and contact details of government
officials not in the Senior Executive Service (SES) or equivalent.  If you
require the mobile numbers of all government officials, or the names and
contact details of non-SES officials, please let us know at
[2][DFAT request email] so the decision-maker may consider; otherwise we will
take it that you agree to that information being excluded from the scope
of your request.

 

Personal Information:

If we need to consult with other people or organisations regarding your
FOI request, we may need to disclose your personal information (e.g. your
name).  When we consult it may be apparent that you have made a request,
even if we do not disclose your identity.  Please let us know if you have
any concerns in this regard.  The Department’s privacy policy is available
at dfat.gov.au/privacy.html.

 

Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to
contact us by return e-mail at [3][DFAT request email]

 

Kind regards

 

 

 

DFAT FOI Team

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Legal Division | Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
[4]DFAT.GOV.AU | [5]Twitter | [6]Facebook | [7]Flickr | [8]YouTube

 

 

 

 

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FOI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

1 Attachment

OFFICIAL

FOI Reference: LEX5086
File Number: 22/3574

Dear Mr Swain

Please find attached correspondence relating to your FOI request, reference LEX5086.

Yours sincerely

DFAT FOI Team

Legal Division | Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
T +61 2 6261 1111 | E [DFAT request email]
DFAT.GOV.AU | Twitter | Facebook | Flickr | YouTube

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Dear DFAT FOI,

Thanks to a rich benefactor, $97 has been sent to you today by direct debit.

Please let me know if there are any problems with the transfer.

I look forward to receiving the response to my request.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Swain

FOI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

2 Attachments

OFFICIAL

 

FOI Reference: LEX5086

File Number: 22/3574

 

Dear Mr Swain

 

Thank you for your email. DFAT’s accounts team has confirmed receipt of
your direct deposit payment today, please find attached receipt for your
records.

 

The statutory timeframe in your matter has recommenced, and we will
endeavour to provide you with a response as quickly as possible.

 

We seek your agreement to an extension of 30 days to finalise your FOI
request, in accordance with section 15AA of the FOI Act. If you agree, the
decision would be due by 29 April 2022.

 

Please be assured that we will continue to process your request as quickly
as possible, and will provide an outcome to you as soon as it is
available.

 

We would be grateful if you could please confirm your agreement to the
extension request.

 

Yours sincerely

 

DFAT FOI Team

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Legal Division | Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
[1]DFAT.GOV.AU | [2]Twitter | [3]Facebook | [4]Flickr | [5]YouTube

 

 

 

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Dear DFAT FOI team,

Thank you for confirming receipt of the direct deposit for FOI Reference LEX5086, and that you are proceeding with my request. I understand that you have set 30 March 2022 as the current due date for your response, and I would appreciate it if you could confirm this.

I refer now to your request for a 30 day extension to reply.

In order for me to make an informed decision, could you please explain why you need additional time. I would appreciate it if you could cover the following points:

- why the need for extra time didn't become apparent when you were calculating the $97 charge for providing the information that I have requested;
- why I won't find myself in a similar situation to that which applied to the 2021 FOI request LEX4138. This request, which covered similar information to my request, was repeatedly delayed by DFAT and eventually abandoned; and
- the implications of granting an extension if a Federal election is called before you have responded.

I would also find it useful to know if there are any elements of my request are causing the delay, and why this is the case. Maybe we can find a way to refine the request to allow you to respond with some useful information within the original 30 day period.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Swain

FOI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

OFFICIAL
FOI Reference: LEX5086
File Number: 22/3574

Dear Mr Swain

I hope you are doing well.

Thank you for your email dated 22 March 2022 seeking additional information regarding the department's request for an extension of the statutory processing time of your FOI request under section 15AA of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

I can confirm that the current due date for your request is Wednesday, 30 March 2022. The department previously requested your agreement to an extension of time until 29 April 2022. I would like to take this opportunity to revise the sought extension to be for a length of 14 days until 13 April 2022.

The department is currently processing a high volume of FOI requests. While your request is at an advanced stage of processing, the department is of the view that it will be unable to meet the current due date of 30 March.

Documents released in response to FOI request LEX4138 can be found online at the department's 2021 FOI disclosure log, here: https://www.dfat.gov.au/about-us/corpora....

Consistent with the FOI Act, federal elections have no bearing on FOI timeframes or processes. The department will continue to process all FOI requests in accordance with the requirements of the FOI Act throughout any upcoming election period.

In the event that the department does not hear from you by COB Wednesday, 30 March, we will instead seek a 14 day extension from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner under s15AB of the FOI Act.

Should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me by return email.

Yours sincerely
Joel

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Legal Division | Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
T +61 2 6261 1111 | E [DFAT request email]
DFAT.GOV.AU | Twitter | Facebook | Flickr | YouTube

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Dear DFAT FOI team,

Thank you for your email updating your request for an extension of time in FOI Reference: LEX5086.

I agree to the extension of time to 13 April 2022.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Swain

FOI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

2 Attachments

OFFICIAL

 

FOI ref: LEX5086

 

Dear Mr Swain

 

Thank you for your FOI request to the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade. 

 

Please find attached a letter advising of the outcome of your request.

 

Kind regards

 

DFAT FOI Team

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Legal Division | Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
[1]DFAT.GOV.AU | [2]Twitter | [3]Facebook | [4]Flickr | [5]YouTube

 

 

 

References

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Dear Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's handling of my FOI request 'Resolution of frozen UK State Pensions issue' (FOI Reference: LEX5086) which you can find at https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r...

Thank you for identifying that there is one document that is covered by my request, and for responding to my request before the agreed date. I would like an internal review of the decision to not release the document, for the following reasons:

1. Given the close relationship between Australia and the UK, e.g. as expressed in the following tweets:

- Boris Johnson: "There are few countries in the world who share a closer friendship than Australia and the UK" - https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/...

- Scott Morrison: "... two great nations bound together by a special bond of history" - 0:15 in the video in https://twitter.com/ScottMorrisonMP/stat...

- Marise Payne: "... the warm friendship between our countries ..." - https://twitter.com/MarisePayne/status/1...

it is difficult for me to understand how the relationship between Australia and the UK could be upset by a difference of opinion on something as long standing as the frozen pension issue, and any comments that Australia has made regarding that issue.

2. Even if there is something of significance in this document, given that DFAT has already stated that it exists, isn't it better to get that comment out in the open?

As a result of what we have already learned from my request, the International Consortium of British Pensioners is arranging to have questions asked in the UK Parliament about the meeting between Marise Payne and Liz Truss, so it is likely that the UK Government will become aware that this document that contains potentially damaging material exists. As I, and all the frozen pensioners in Australia have no interest in damage to Australia's international relations due to our campaign for justice, isn't it better to be open and honest with the UK, with whom Australia believes it has such a close relationship, rather than risk a misunderstanding or a breakdown in trust?

3. It appears to me that national security claims are often used by the Australian Government as a way to avoid scrutiny, and if this is the case, I do not believe that it is an appropriate reason to exempt the document from release.

For these reasons I therefore think that it is appropriate that I get an internal review of the current decision to not release the document, and to therefore get a second person, if necessary, to go on the record confirming the current assessment of the document that you have identified and the decision not to release it.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r...

Yours faithfully,

Paul Swain

FOI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

OFFICIAL
FOI Reference: LEX5441
File Number: 22/13443

Dear Mr Swain

Re: Freedom of Information (FOI) Request

Thank you for your email dated 26 April 2022 in which you seek internal review of your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), which sought access to the following:

"1. Could you please provide me with any documents that DFAT holds that shows that the Australian Government attempted to resolve the frozen UK State Pension issue with the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her staff during her recent visit.

2. If the Australian Government DID NOT attempt to resolve the frozen UK State Pension issue with the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her staff during her recent visit, could you please provide me with any documents that DFAT holds that shows why the Australian Government did not attempt to resolve this issue on this occasion.

3. If the Australian Government was once again ineffective in its attempt to resolve the frozen UK State Pension issue during this visit, could you please provide me with any documents that contain analyses that DFAT has done investigating the reason for the failure, and attempting to develop a more effective strategy for future attempts.

4. If DFAT does not hold any documents that are covered by point 3, could you please provide me with any documents that DFAT holds that shows why it does not attempt to improve its performance in resolving the frozen UK State Pension issue by analysing its past performance."

This email sets out some information about how your request for internal review will be processed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Internal review
A new decision-maker will be appointed to review the FOI decision provided to you on 11 April 2022.

Timeframe for receiving our decision:
We received your request on 26 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 26 May 2022. The period of 30 days may be extended in certain circumstances. As this is a request for internal review of an FOI decision, the department will arrange any necessary extension with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The OAIC will provide you with an opportunity to comment before granting the department an extension.

Exclusion of officials' names and contact details:
I would like to remind you that it is the department's policy to withhold the mobile numbers of all government officials, and the names and contact details of government officials not in the Senior Executive Service (SES) or equivalent. If you require this information, please let us know at [DFAT request email]; otherwise we will take it that you agree to that information being excluded from the scope of your request.

Personal Information:
If we need to consult with other people or organisations regarding your internal review request, we may need to disclose your personal information (e.g. your name). When we consult it may be apparent that you have made a request, even if we do not disclose your identity. Please let us know if you have any concerns in this regard. The department's privacy policy is available at dfat.gov.au/privacy.html.

Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us by return email at [DFAT request email].

Yours sincerely
DFAT FOI Team

Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Legal Division | Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
T +61 2 6261 1111 | E [DFAT request email]
DFAT.GOV.AU | Twitter | Facebook | Flickr | YouTube

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