Last updated 20 April 2019
Commonwealth Government Documents
There is no particular form for Commonwealth freedom of information requests. However, applicants should visit the website of, or contact a representative from, the relevant agency to check whether there are specific guidelines or sample forms available, as some agencies produce forms designed to assist applicants.
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (Freedom of Information Act) requires requests to:
- be in writing
- state that the request is for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act
- describe the document so that it can be identified
- provide details for the agency or minister to send notices to the applicant.
Requests can be posted or emailed to the central office or regional offices of the relevant agency or minister. Where an agency receives a request for documents held by another agency, it may transfer the request to that other agency, but this will mean the request will take longer to process so it is better to lodge the form with the correct agency.
It is useful to discuss a proposed access to information request with the agency’s freedom of information or right to information officer before lodging the application. This is especially important when fees and charges apply, and extra costs may be incurred if the application is vague or poorly drafted. Vague or poor drafting may also lead to a refusal to process the application because it unreasonably diverts resources or interferes with the minister’s performance (s 24 Freedom of Information Act).
Cost for Commonwealth freedom of information requests
There is no application fee for a Commonwealth freedom of information request.
However, the Freedom of Information (Charges) Regulations 2019 (Cth) set out certain charges that may apply to various activities involved in processing a request. These charges are outlined in sch 1 to the Regulations.
Queensland Government documents
Under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (Right to Information Act), a request for access to information must be made using the Right to Information and Privacy Application online form available from the Queensland Government’s Right to Information website.
The application must include information about the documents requested so that the government agency can identify them (s 24 Right to Information Act). Agencies must help the applicant to frame the access request in a way that enables the agency to identify the documents requested. It is useful to discuss the proposed access to information access with the agency’s right to information officer before lodging the application.
The application must also include an address to which the agency can send notices about the request for access to information. This does not need to be the applicant’s home address.
Cost for Queensland right to information requests
There is an application fee for access to information requests lodged with a Queensland agency or minister. The amount payable can be found in pt 3 reg 4 of the Right to Information Regulation 2009 (Qld) (Right to Information Regulation).
A processing charge is the cost of ‘searching for or retrieving the document’ and making a decision about the application (s 56 Right to Information Act). The processing fees and charges are outlined in pt 3 of the Right to Information Regulation.
The processing charge may be waived if the agency or minister has delayed it or if the applicant demonstrates financial hardship (ss 65, 66 Right to Information Act). The Queensland Information Commissioner may also waive processing charges at external review.
An access charge is the cost of giving access to the document. Access charges may include:
- copies of documents as a black and white A4 photocopy
- cost incurred to engage another entity to search for and retrieve the document
- cost incurred to relocate a document
- cost of transcribing a recording or preparing a written document.
The agency or minister will provide the applicant with a written estimate of how much the application will cost. Access charges may be waived if the applicant demonstrates financial hardship (s 66 Right to Information Act). Special consideration in relation to fees may be given to non-profit organisations.