Victoria School Building Authority - workplace culture

Megan Parolin made this Freedom of Information request to Victorian Department of Education and Training

The request was partially successful.

From: Megan Parolin

Delivered

Dear Victorian Department of Education and Training,

I have made a request using the FOI online application tool, but could you please correspond with me only via the Right to Know website.

A copy of the information requested is pasted below for transparency.

Yours faithfully,

Megan Parolin

*** Please correspond with me via the Right to Know website. ***

Could you please provide a copy of each of the following documents:

1. The Victoria School Building Authority's (VSBA's) procurement policy.

2. Procurement documents (including but not limited to, the business case for, request for, and approval of) relating to the hire of a consultant to consider VSBA's workplace culture, bullying or similar.

3. Scope of works provided to the consultant(s) engaged to consider VSBA's workplace culture, bullying or similar ('the consultant').

4. Final reports, presentations or similar documents produced by the consultant.

5. Minutes of meetings which discuss any reports or presentations or findings produced by the consultant.

6. Reports, presentations or other similar materials produced by the consultant or the VSBA relating to the consultant's findings, especially those used when explaining results to staff (for example, that 86 per cent of people interviewed had personally experienced 'disrespectful behaviour').

7. Emails relating to the adoption of any recommendations made by the consultant (if any) or actions to be taken as a result of considering the consultant's activities.

8. formal complaints, review of actions requests or incident reports relating to alleged bullying, unreasonable behaviour or similar psychosocial issues submitted to the OHS Officer or a member of Human Resources, excluding all information that would allow an individual to be identified.

Please regard any individual's names, positions or contact details below executive director level as out of scope for this request.

Thanks for your assistance with this request.

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From: FOI Unit
Victorian Department of Education and Training


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Dear Ms Parolin,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST

 

We refer to your request received 15 January 2019 by the Department of
Education and Training (the Department) seeking access under the Freedom
of Information Act 1982 (the Act) to:

 

1. The Victoria School Building Authority's (VSBA's) procurement policy.

2. Procurement documents (including but not limited to, the business case
for, request for, and approval of) relating to the hire of a consultant to
consider VSBA's workplace culture, bullying or similar.

3. Scope of works provided to the consultant(s) engaged to consider VSBA's
workplace culture, bullying or similar ('the consultant').

4. Final reports, presentations or similar documents produced by the
consultant.

5. Minutes of meetings which discuss any reports or presentations or
findings produced by the consultant.

6. Reports, presentations or other similar materials produced by the
consultant or the VSBA relating to the consultant's findings, especially
those used when explaining results to staff (for example, that 86 per cent
of people interviewed had personally experienced 'disrespectful
behaviour').

7. Emails relating to the adoption of any recommendations made by the
consultant (if any) or actions to be taken as a result of considering the
consultant's activities.

8. formal complaints, review of actions requests or incident reports
relating to alleged bullying, unreasonable behaviour or similar
psychosocial issues submitted to the OHS Officer or a member of Human
Resources, excluding all information that would allow an individual to be
identified.

 

Please regard any individual's names, positions or contact details below
executive director level as out of scope for this request.

 

This email is to acknowledge receipt of your request.

 

In assessing your application, it is our policy to make preliminary
enquiries to determine:

·         if the Department is in possession of the documents you are
seeking;

·         how many documents are involved;

·         the effort required in retrieving and assessing the documents;
and

·         if consultation with third parties is required.

 

These enquiries may have several different outcomes:

·         Your application can proceed towards resolution in its original
form.

·         Your application may require some form of clarification to
proceed, for example, it may become apparent that an application does not
comply with section 17(2) of the Act, which requires that the request
should provide sufficient information for an officer to identify the
subject documents. Please note that should your application be unclear in
terms of section 17(2) of the Act, the statutory time period of 30 days
does not commence until we have received appropriate clarification from
you.

·         You may be required to vary your application in order to avoid
refusal under section 25A of the Act. In particular, section 25A(1) of the
Act states that the request may be refused if the work involved in
processing the request would substantially and unreasonably divert the
resources of the agency from its other operations.

 

We will contact you in due course as this matter progresses.

  

If you have any queries regarding this matter, please contact the FOI Unit
on (03) 7022 0078 or by email at [1][email address].

 

Kind regards,

 

Freedom of Information Unit 
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne VIC 3002

 

T: 03 7022 0078
E: [2][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email] 
W: [3]www.education.vic.gov.au

 

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IMPORTANT - This email and any attachments may be confidential. If
received in error, please contact us and delete all copies. Before opening
or using attachments check them for viruses and defects. Regardless of any
loss, damage or consequence, whether caused by the negligence of the
sender or not, resulting directly or indirectly from the use of any
attached files our liability is limited to resupplying any affected
attachments. Any representations or opinions expressed are those of the
individual sender, and not necessarily those of the Department of
Education and Training.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. mailto:[Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
3. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/

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From: FOI Unit
Victorian Department of Education and Training


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Dear Ms Parolin,

 

We refer to your request to the Department of Education and Training
(Department) received on 15 January 2019 seeking access to:

 

1. The Victoria School Building Authority's (VSBA's) procurement policy.

 

2. Procurement documents (including but not limited to, the business case
for, request for, and approval of) relating to the hire of a consultant to
consider VSBA's workplace culture, bullying or similar.

 

3. Scope of works provided to the consultant(s) engaged to consider VSBA's
workplace culture, bullying or similar ('the consultant').

 

4. Final reports, presentations or similar documents produced by the
consultant.

 

5. Minutes of meetings which discuss any reports or presentations or
findings produced by the consultant.

 

6. Reports, presentations or other similar materials produced by the
consultant or the VSBA relating to the consultant's findings, especially
those used when explaining results to staff (for example, that 86 per cent
of people interviewed had personally experienced 'disrespectful
behaviour').

 

7. Emails relating to the adoption of any recommendations made by the
consultant (if any) or actions to be taken as a result of considering the
consultant's activities.

 

8. formal complaints, review of actions requests or incident reports
relating to alleged bullying, unreasonable behaviour or similar
psychosocial issues submitted to the OHS Officer or a member of Human
Resources, excluding all information that would allow an individual to be
identified.

 

With regards to category 8 of your request, the wording of this category
and the search efforts that would be required to fulfil it, place your
request within section 25A(1)(a) of the Act. This is due to the fact that
the work involved in processing category 8 would substantially and
unreasonably divert the resources of the agency from its other operations.

 

Section 25A(2) of the Act provided a non-exhaustive list of matters that
can be considered when making an assessment of the resources that would
have to be used to process a request and includes the time required to:

·         identify, locate or collate the documents within the filing
system of the agency;

·         examine the documents;

·         consult any person or body in relation to the request;

·         make a copy, or an edited copy, of the documents; and

·         notify an applicant of a decision on the request.

 

The wording of category 8 suggests that you are seeking all Department
documents falling within this category. We assume, based on categories 1
to 7, that you are actually seeking all VSBA document falling within
category 8.  However, even if you are seeking all VSBA documents, the work
involved in processing the VSBA documents falling within category 8 would
still substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the agency
from its other operations.

 

Before we refuse to grant access to the documents sought by you, we are
providing you with a reasonable opportunity to consult so as to remove the
grounds for refusal. In this regard, you may wish to consider revising the
scope of category 8 of your request to the following:

 

·         Formal complaints, review of actions requests or incident
reports relating to alleged bullying, unreasonable behaviour or similar
psychosocial issues between VSBA employees submitted during 2018 (or an
alternative timeframe) to the OHS Officer or a member of Human Resources,
excluding all information that would allow an individual to be identified.

 

OR

 

·         Formal complaints, review of actions requests or incident
reports relating to alleged bullying, unreasonable behaviour or similar
psychosocial issues between VSBA employees and school employees submitted
during 2018 (or an alternative timeframe) to the OHS Officer or a member
of Human Resources, excluding all information that would allow an
individual to be identified.

 

Your request cannot be processed until written notification of your
amended request has been received and we have confirmed that the amended
request does not fall within section 25A(1)(a) of the Act.

 

We would appreciate if you could respond to the issues raised above by 5
February 2019, otherwise your request will be refused in accordance with
section 25A(1) of the Act.

 

Contact

 

If you have any queries regarding this matter, please contact the Freedom
of Information Unit on (03) 7022 0078 or by email at
[1][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email].

 

Kind regards,

 

Freedom of Information Unit 
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne VIC 3002

 

T: 03 7022 0078
E: [2][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email] 
W: [3]www.education.vic.gov.au

 

[4]/var/folders/4r/1nnjgz_10hv85v7kb2rm1cx00000gn/T/com.microsoft.Word/WebArchiveCopyPasteTempFiles/cidimage001.jpg@01D3FF54.A3C29350

IMPORTANT - This email and any attachments may be confidential. If
received in error, please contact us and delete all copies. Before opening
or using attachments check them for viruses and defects. Regardless of any
loss, damage or consequence, whether caused by the negligence of the
sender or not, resulting directly or indirectly from the use of any
attached files our liability is limited to resupplying any affected
attachments. Any representations or opinions expressed are those of the
individual sender, and not necessarily those of the Department of
Education and Training.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
2. mailto:[Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
3. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/

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From: Megan Parolin

Delivered

Dear FOI Unit,

Thank you for your correspondence dated 22 January. I appreciate the opportunity to refine my request to ensure that it is not voluminous, and therefore able to be processed by the Department of Education.

Could you please remove category 1 through 7 from my original request and replace them with the following, to narrow the scope of searches required?

1. Procurement documents (including the business case, request and approval) for the hire of Converge International for a ‘Workplace Wellbeing Assessment’ of the Victorian Schools Building Authority (VSBA)

2. Summary Assessment Report prepared by Converge International for the VSBA and other supplementary reports prepared by Converge International (if any – please indicate)

3. Responses to the online survey (if any – please indicate) completed as part of the Workplace Wellbeing Assessment, with personally identifying information considered out of scope OR if this would attract section 25A of the FOI Act, aggregate data from the online survey (if any – please indicate)

4. Minutes of meetings and emails from Human Resources, legal or executive staff which discuss the findings of Converge International’s Workplace Wellbeing Assessment, particularly about:
a. Identified psychosocial risks
b. Key findings and recommendations made by Convergence International

5. Copy of the presentation materials used in staff presentations held by Mr Chris Keating to discuss the Workplace Wellbeing Assessment results with VSBA staff, for example on 16 November 2018 at the Treasury Theatre.

Thank you for your suggestions regarding original category 8 (which is now 6). I would like to reformulate category 8 (now 6) as follows:

6. Formal complaints, review of actions request or incident reports related to alleged bullying or similar behaviour between VSBA employees submitted during 2016, 2017 and 2018 to the OHS Officer or a member of Human Resources, excluding all information that would allow an individual to be identified.

In making this amendment, I would like to note that the VSBA has approximately 200 employees and has only existed since 2016. The VPSC’s ‘Data Insights: Bullying in the Victorian Public Sector’ publication suggests that 20% of VPS staff experience bullying in a 12 month period, but only 19% of those people submit a ‘formal complaint’. A ‘formal complaint’ was not defined in the publication and it is unclear whether these are distinguished from a review of actions request, but I note that review of action requests are not frequent and not the route of complaint typically used for bullying allegations. Using the VPSC’s figures, it would be reasonable to expect that there would be less than 8 formal complaints, review of actions requests or incident reports per year.

Could you please advise whether this amended request is satisfactory in terms of section 25A? If not, I would again appreciate your assistance in narrowing the request.

Kind regards

Megan

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From: FOI Unit
Victorian Department of Education and Training

Dear Ms Parolin,

Thank you for the below email.

We are currently in the process of seeking confirmation from the relevant parties as to whether the revised scope below is satisfactory for the purpose of s25A(1)(a).

We will provide you with this confirmation at our earliest opportunity.

Kind regards,

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne VIC 3002

T: 03 7022 0078
E: [Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
W: www.education.vic.gov.au

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This message has been hidden. Contains personal information (address) Please contact us if you have any questions. If you are the requester, then you may sign in to view the message.

From: Megan Parolin

Delivered

Dear Ms Feeney

Thank you for your recent letter dated 14 February 2018, however could you please remove it as an attachment as a matter of urgency - you have inappropriately publicly disclosed my personal address.

I am concerned that your department has initially sought to determine that my request was too large to be processed, and now seeks to impose an access charge. I note that the object of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (FOI Act) is to facilitate and promote the disclosure of information, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost. Having paid an application fee and substantially reduced the scope of my request, and given the relatively narrow scope of the request, I feel that the imposition of an access charge does not serve the object of the Act. Whilst I acknowledge that the Department of Education is in the State of Victoria, I note that had I made a request under the federal legislation and associated regulation, the first five hours of work to fulfil an FOI request are exempt from charge.

Further, my intended use of the documents is in the public interest, being that I intend to provide the documents along with documents obtained from other Victorian agencies in support of an already existing petition to the Victorian government. The petition is to request that Victorian public sector employees have access to the Fair Work Commission’s anti-bullying jurisdiction. As you would be aware, Victorian public sector employees have limited ability to make public comment on work matters – whether that be because of a strict interpretation of the VPS Code of Conduct or for the very real fear of reprisal. I am not a public sector employee, but I am advocating on behalf of a number of people who feel they cannot do this themselves.

Given that the request is to enable me to provide evidence to justify a request for legislative change that would benefit approximately 300,000 people (source: https://careers.vic.gov.au/victorian-pub..., I believe that you are unable to make a charge for access to the requested documents having regard to section 22(1)(h) of the FOI Act.

As such, I would appreciate that you confirm as soon as possible, that the documents will be provided to me without cost and further delay.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Parolin

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From: FOI Unit
Victorian Department of Education and Training


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Dear Ms Parolin

 

Thank you for your response to the Notice of Access Charges letter sent to
you on 14 February 2019.

 

The charges that have been calculated for your Freedom of Information
(FOI) request are in accordance with the Freedom of Information (Access
Charges) Regulations 2014 (the Access Charges Regulations) and section 22
of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Victorian Act).

 

The Department of Education and Training (the Department) is a Victorian
government agency, and is therefore an agency under the Victorian Act. The
Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Commonwealth Act)
applies to Australian Government agencies, not Victorian Government
agencies. Therefore, your request is made under the Victorian Act,
regardless of whether you claim it is under the Commonwealth Act.
Furthermore, your initial request was made to the Department with no
reference to the Commonwealth Act.

 

Under section 22(6) of the Victorian Act, an agency shall discuss with the
applicant practicable alternatives for altering the request or reducing
the anticipated charge, including reduction of the charge if the applicant
shall waive the need for compliance by the agency with the time limits
specified in the Victorian Act.

 

As per section 22(5) of the Victorian Act, if an agency has requested a
deposit on account of a charge, the applicant’s request shall be deemed to
have been received by the agency on the day on which the deposit was paid.

 

Therefore, instead of paying the total access charges of $108.38, as
stipulated in the Notice of Access Charges letter sent to you on 14
February 2019, we will offer a waiver of these access charges on the
condition that the Department has 60 days to process your request. This
time period would start from the date you accept this offer, in place of
the date the deposit would have been paid.

 

Please let us know if you accept this offer by reply email. As noted in
the Notice of Access Charges letter we sent to you, you also have a right
to seek a review of access charges by the Victorian Civil and
Administrative Tribunal. If you wish to have the estimate of charges
reviewed please contact the Office of the Victorian Information
Commissioner to obtain the required charges certificate. You can contact
the office on 1300 006 842 or by email to
[1][email address] You have up to 60 days from the
date of the Notice of Access Charges letter to seek a review. If we do not
receive a response from you before the expiration of your review rights,
we will close your request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne VIC 3002

 

T: 03 7022 0078

E: [2][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
W: [3]www.education.vic.gov.au

 

 

 

 

IMPORTANT - This email and any attachments may be confidential. If
received in error, please contact us and delete all copies. Before opening
or using attachments check them for viruses and defects. Regardless of any
loss, damage or consequence, whether caused by the negligence of the
sender or not, resulting directly or indirectly from the use of any
attached files our liability is limited to resupplying any affected
attachments. Any representations or opinions expressed are those of the
individual sender, and not necessarily those of the Department of
Education and Training.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. mailto:[Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
3. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/

Link to this

From: Megan Parolin

Delivered

Dear FOI Unit,

Section 22(h)(i) of the FOI Act states that a charge shall not be made if the applicants intended use of the document is a use of general public interest or benefit.

Could you please specifically address why you are seeking to impose an access charge and then waive it, when according to the FOI Act this request does not attract a charge other than the application fee?

As this FOI request is of a public interest nature, access charges do not apply to then be waived by agreement.

Further, could you also please explain why this request would require an additional 60 days to process when you have already identified that it is approximately 200 pages long and requires five hours of work?

Yours sincerely,

Megan Parolin

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From: FOI Unit
Victorian Department of Education and Training


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Dear Ms Parolin

 

Thank you for your response.

 

You have stated that we are unable to request access charges as your
intended use of the documents is a use of general public interest or
benefit, as per section 22(1)(h)(i) of the Act.

 

As noted in Lapidos v Office of Corrections (1990) 4 VAR 31, the
expression ‘a use of general public interest or benefit’ in section
22(1)(h)(i) of the Act “connotes a use of the documents which will be in
the interest of or for the benefit of the public as distinct from the
interest of or for the benefit of individual members or groups of members
of the public. The use of the word "general" emphasises the distinction
between the interest or benefit of the public and that of an individual or
individuals.”

 

In Sunbury Progress Association v Hume CC (2004) 22 VAR 217; [2004] VCAT
2344, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) noted that in
order to ascertain that the applicants intended use of the documents was a
use of ‘general public interest or benefit’, it would require “a large
body of evidence showing the use to which these documents would be put and
the fact that they would be used for the general public use and benefit
rather than a special interest group.”

 

It has been held that section 22(1)(h)(i) is not satisfied where the
applicant represents a special interest group which “is in no sense
representative of the Victorian community generally” (Prospectors and
Miners Association (Vic) v Office of the Mining Warden (1987) 1 VAR 472 at
473; Sunbury Progress Association v Hume CC (2004) 22 VAR 217; [2004] VCAT
2344 at [20]–[21]).

 

In light of the above, we believe that section 22(1)(h)(i) does not apply
and we are able to make a request for access charges. Therefore, we can
also make use of section 22(6), which provides the opportunity to reduce
or waive the anticipated charge. We suggested waiving the total amount of
access charges of $108.38 as a gesture to assist with the continuation of
your request.

 

As mentioned in our previous email to you, Section 22(6) of the Act states
that an agency shall discuss with the  applicant practicable alternatives
for altering the request or reducing  the anticipated charge, including
reduction of the charge if the applicant shall waive the need for
compliance by the agency with the time limits specified in the Victorian
Act. We therefore suggested a waiver of the total access charges on the
condition that we have up to 60 days to process your request, from the
date you accept the offer. We have asked for this timeframe in order to
ensure the proper processing of your request.

 

As stated in our letter to you on 14 February 2019, the calculation of
charges is based on an estimate of the time and resources spent to search
for documents relevant to your request. The search time was advised as
approximately 5 hours. Thus, this calculation of 5 hours is purely for the
required search for documents, and does not the time taken to read and
assess the documents under the Act, and provide our final decision to you.

 

We reiterate our offer to you, with regard to the access charges that are
applicable to your request. Instead of paying the total amount of access
charges of $108.38, as stipulated in the Notice of Access Charges letter
sent to you on 14 February 2019, we will offer a waiver of these access
charges on the condition that the Department has 60 days to process your
request. This time period would start from the date you accept this offer,
in place of the date the deposit would have been paid.

 

Please let us know if you accept this offer by reply email. As noted in
the Notice of Access Charges letter we sent to you, you also have a right
to seek a review of access charges by the Victorian Civil and
Administrative Tribunal. If you wish to have the estimate of charges
reviewed please contact the Office of the Victorian Information
Commissioner to obtain the required charges certificate. You can contact
the office on 1300 006 842 or by email to [1][email address]
You have up to 60 days from the date of the Notice of Access Charges
letter to seek a review. If we do not receive a response from you before
the expiration of your review rights, we will close your request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne VIC 3002

 

T: 03 7022 0078

E: [2][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
W: [3]www.education.vic.gov.au

 

 

 

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From: Megan Parolin

Delivered

Dear FOI Unit,

I refer to our ongoing communication over the Right to Know website.

There is a dearth of judicial guidance on the interpretation of ‘a use of general public interest of benefit’, perhaps in part because of the effort required on behalf of applicants in order to have their matters determined. I believe this difficulty in appealing decisions by FOI officers, in terms of timely and inexpensive resolution, is known and likely exploited by certain agencies.

Most of this email is moot given that I accept the offer to waive access charges, with an amendment to your condition. However, short of a complaint to OVIC I would like to again bring attention to the untenable reasons used to repeatedly delay the processing of my request, which was lodged more than two months ago.

I note that the cases you have provided in deciding that my request does not relate to a use of ‘general public interest or benefit’ require the characterisation of the applicant or interested persons as a ‘special interest group’.

The applicant in Sunbury Progress Association v Hume CC [2004] VCAT 2344 (SPA) was an incorporated association of people connected to the suburb of Sunbury which, as no evidence was submitted, was assumed to be interested in Sunbury no longer being a part of the Hume City Council. Prospectors and Miners Association (Vic) v Office of the Mining Warden (1987) 1 VAR 472 (Miners), considered access to documents by a restricted interest association that would be of interest to approximately 20,000 holders of miners rights in Victoria.

In both these cases, the applicant and apparent beneficiaries are limited by their geographic location, or the unique nature of their interests. However, Victorian public sector employees, who would directly benefit from the intended use of the requested documents, are far from a ‘special interest group’ or ‘in no sense representative of the Victorian community generally’ as stated in Miners. Victorian public sector employees are quite the opposite, considering they run the gamut of: (a) age; (b) gender; (c) culture and heritage; (d) sexual orientation; (e) location throughout the State; (f) occupation; (g) whether they have a family; (h) disability; (i) political beliefs; and (j) footy team, as a non-exhaustive list of characteristics. In fact, their only defining characteristic is their employment occurs on behalf of the State of Victoria.

Further, in deciding whether a request was ‘of general public use or benefit’, in Lapidos v Officer of Corrections (1990) 4 VAR 31 (Lapidos), Jones J identified several factors to be taken into consideration. These are helpfully listed by Senior Member Proctor in Russell v Murrindindi SC (Review and Regulation) [2016] VCAT 1287 at paragraph 40 (Russell). I note in particular, that ‘any personal or commercial interest of the requester in the requested documents which may indicate against waiver’ is a relevant factor. In SPA, the requester had a personal interest in Sunbury being part of the Hume City Council; In Miners, the requester had a commercial interest in exploiting mining licences and distributing newsletters containing information from the requested documents to paid subscribers and association members. As I have made clear in my prior communication, there is no personal or commercial benefit in obtaining the documents I have requested.

These cases are clearly distinguishable on the facts. Your correspondence is devoid of any explanation as to how one could conclude that ‘Victorian public sector employees’ are ‘in no sense representative of the Victorian community generally’ or that a petition for change in workplace legislation is not ‘of general public interest or benefit’. Even if it were reasonable to take such a restrictive definition of ‘general public interest’, it would be contrary to the objects of the FOI Act to do so.

For the benefit of those who may be viewing this request on the Right To Know website, the letter dated 14 February (which has been hidden due to the Department of Education disclosing my personal address) states ‘there are approximately 200 pages of documents that are relevant to your request’, and seeks to impose a ‘charge for search time’ of five hours.

The need for 60 days to process an approximately 200-page request is out of step with the processing of other FOI requests, both within the Department of Education and by other Victorian authorities, who have less resources and have processed larger requests without the need for significant extensions of time. With respect to this request in particular, there is little if any request for third party information, and personal information was already largely excluded to reduce the resources required to complete the request.

However, despite not accepting reading, assessing and processing such a relatively small amount of documents would require 60 days, I agree to a 30 calendar day extension (public holidays inclusive), on the condition that the following documents are added to my request:
• People Matter Survey results for the VSBA for the last two years
• Comments provided in the free text section of the People Matter Survey by VSBA employees for the last two years, with personally identifying information considered out of scope.

Yours sincerely

Megan Parolin

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From: FOI Unit
Victorian Department of Education and Training


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Dear Ms Parolin

 

Thank you for your response.

 

The purpose of section 22(6) of the Freedom of Information Act (‘Act’) is
to reduce the need for a deposit through waiving the access charges or
reducing the scope of the request. Rather than reducing the scope of the
request, you have asked to increase the scope of the request.

 

If you seek to access any documents relevant to the new points you have
referred to in your last email, you will need to submit a new Freedom of
Information request.

 

We will offer to waive the access charges if you agree to the Department
having 45 calendar days to process your request as it currently stands,
from the date you accept the offer.

 

Please let us know if you accept this offer by reply email.

 

You have a right to seek a review of access charges by the Victorian Civil
and Administrative Tribunal. If you wish to have the estimate of charges
reviewed please contact the Office of the Victorian Information
Commissioner to obtain the required charges certificate. You can contact
the office on 1300 006 842 or by email to [1][email address]
You have up to 60 days from the date of the Notice of Access Charges
letter to seek a review. If we do not receive a response from you before
the expiration of your review rights, we will close your request.

 

Kind regards,

 

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne VIC 3002

 

T: 03 7022 0078

E: [2][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
W: [3]www.education.vic.gov.au

 

[4]cid:image001.jpg@01D4E3DF.78CF9830

 

 

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From: Megan Parolin

Delivered

Dear FOI Unit,

I note that section 22(6) has only become relevant as the Department of Education has decided that my request is not in the public interest and therefore not exempt from charges. I refer to my immediately previous email which clearly articulates the fault in the Department's reasoning, and that my pursuit of this issue would only further prolong my access to the requested documents.

I remind the Department that section 3 of the FOI Act provides that discretions conferred by this Act shall be exercised as far as possible so as to facilitate and promote, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost, the disclosure of information.

Section 22(6) in its entirety, states (with my emphasis in upper case):

(6) Where an agency has required an applicant to pay a deposit on account of a charge, the agency shall, if requested to do so by the applicant, discuss with the applicant PRACTICABLE ALTERNATIVES for altering the request or reducing the anticipated charge, INCLUDING reduction of the charge if the APPLICANT shall WAIVE, either CONDITIONALLY or unconditionally, the need for COMPLIANCE BY THE AGENCY WITH THE TIME LIMITS specified in section 21.

The purpose of section 22(6) is not specifically for the applicant to reduce the scope of the request as you have stated: it is to provide for a reduction or waiver of access fees, which are still a matter of discretion to impose at all, on mutually agreeable terms that are otherwise consistent with the FOI Act.

The additional documents requested would be contained in approximately four emails, to a member of the HR Branch, from the VPSC or ORIMA (2018 provider of the People Matters Survey). Search time, the charge you claim is applicable to this request (albeit contested in principle), would be reasonably expected to be less than half an hour. To submit a separate request on these documents, which directly relate to the subject matter of the request, would incur a greater fee than time being charged on that request, and would unnecessarily add to the Department's administrative burden in registering, responding and reporting on a separate request.

This is clearly not a practicable alternative, even less practicable when one considers that: (a) the Department has not been able to provide a defensible explanation as to how the request is not in the public interest, with the applicant only conceding as a matter of practicality; and (b) given the Department's second offer to process the original documents within 45 days, and the applicant accepting 60 days, the Department would have an additional 15 days to process approximately four documents.

I am conscious that engaging in prolonged discussions with the Department detracts from its ability to process my request, and that continuing to discuss these matters delays the commencement of the time period to process my request. On this basis, I agree to an unconditional 60 calendar days from today to process my request. I would like the additional documents I requested in my previous email to be provided, but invite the Department to exercise its discretion and act in good faith.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Parolin

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From: FOI Unit
Victorian Department of Education and Training


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Dear Ms Parolin

 

This email is to acknowledge that you have agreed to our offer of waiving
the access charges of $108.38 on the condition that the Department has 60
days to process your request from the date you accepted the offer, being
27 March 2019.

 

We have included the following new points as part of your request, as
provided in your email dated 21 March 2019:

 

•             People Matter Survey results for the VSBA for the last two
years

•             Comments provided in the free text section of the People
Matter Survey by VSBA employees for the last two years, with personally
identifying information considered out of scope.

 

We will conduct a search for documents for these two new points of your
request.

 

Contact

 

If you have any queries regarding this matter, please contact the FOI Unit
on (03) 7022 0078 or by email at [1][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]

 

Yours sincerely

 

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne VIC 3002

 

T: 03 7022 0078

E: [2][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
W: [3]www.education.vic.gov.au

 

 

 

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From: Megan Parolin

Delivered

Dear FOI Unit,

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Parolin

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From: FOI Unit
Victorian Department of Education and Training


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Attachment FOI 2019 020 Decision.pdf
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Attachment 2019 020 Documents for release.pdf
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Dear Ms Parolin

 

Please find attached the signed access decision and the documents released
in response to your request.

 

This now completes your Freedom of Information request. The above file
number is now closed.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne VIC 3002

 

T: 03 7022 0078

E: [1][Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
W: [2]www.education.vic.gov.au

 

 

IMPORTANT - This email and any attachments may be confidential. If
received in error, please contact us and delete all copies. Before opening
or using attachments check them for viruses and defects. Regardless of any
loss, damage or consequence, whether caused by the negligence of the
sender or not, resulting directly or indirectly from the use of any
attached files our liability is limited to resupplying any affected
attachments. Any representations or opinions expressed are those of the
individual sender, and not necessarily those of the Department of
Education and Training.

References

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1. mailto:[Victorian Department of Education and Training request email]
2. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/

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