Open Government

The Federal Government has reformed Australia’s Freedom of Information laws. The new laws favour disclosure and are designed to provide greater transparency and openness.

The reforms include abolishing lodgement fees for FOI claims. The first five hours of time taken by a Minister or public official to make a decision on request for information is now free of charge, and access to an individual’s own personal information is also free of charge. If an agency takes longer than the statutory time limit to respond to an FOI request, the agency cannot impose any charge at all (unless an extension of time has been approved). A Minister or agency may also waive or reduce charges, but must, in any event, inform an FOI applicant if they will be required to pay charges. An FOI applicant can apply to have chargers corrected, reduced or waived if, for example, the charges would cause financial hardship.

The reforms also established the Office of the Australian information Commissioner. The Australian Information Commissioner, supported by the Privacy Commissioner and a new Freedom of Information Commissioner, is a specialist independent monitor with the ability to review FOI decisions and investigate complaints. The Australian Information Commissioner will also work with agencies to develop best practice standards in the areas of FOI and privacy, and to monitor compliance.

From 1 May 2011 all information disclosed as result of an FOI request will have to be published online with ten days of the disclosure, unless the information is exempt (as would be the case in relation to private or personal information).

More information and assistance can be sought from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner on 1200 363 992 or

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.