Last updated 20 April 2019
Commonwealth Government Agencies
At the federal level, government agencies and ministers must acknowledge receipt of an access to information application within 14 days. If a request is transferred to another agency, the agency making the transfer must inform the applicant.
Under Commonwealth legislation, government agencies or ministers are obliged to:
- collect and locate all documents relevant to the request
- consult with any parties (including other government agencies) whose rights may be affected by disclosure
- reach a decision and inform the applicant within specified time limits set in the legislation
- provide reasons if a decision is made to refuse a request for access to information.
The relevant agency or minister has 30 days after it receives the request to take all reasonable steps to notify the applicant of a decision (s 15(5)(b) Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth)). However, the Australian Information Commissioner may grant an extension of time to the relevant agency or minister to process a request.
Queensland Government agencies
The government agency or minister is not required to contact an applicant when a valid application is received or if a request is transferred to another agency, although sending an acknowledgement letter is considered good practice.
If a person makes an application for a document, the agency or minister will decide whether to give access to the document and whether there will be a charge. The applicant will be provided with a written notice of the decision.
There are reasons why an agency or minister may refuse access to a document. These reasons include that (s 47(3) Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (Right to Information Act)):
- the document relates to exempt information. The types of exempt information are listed in sch 3 of the Right to Information Act
- disclosure of the information would not be in the public interest
- disclosure of information about a child would not be in the child’s best interests.
- disclosure of health care information would not prejudicial to the physical or mental health or wellbeing of the applicant
- the document does not exist or cannot be located.
- the document can be accessed another way. This includes information that is publicly available in a library or in public archives.
The agency or minister has 25 business days to make a decision about the application (s 18(1) Right to Information Act). However, there are a number of events that stop the clock on the 25-business-day period (s 18(2) Right to Information Act). This includes:
- the period of time between when an applicant receives a notice of the fee estimate and for processing their request, and when an applicant confirms or amends their application
- when an application is transferred from one government agency or minister to another
- if the applicant agrees an additional time for the agency or minister to consider the application
- if the agency or minister consults a third party likely to be affected by the disclosure of the information for which the applicant seeks access
- if the agency or minister gives a notice to the applicant refusing to deal with the application.