Lodging a freedom of information request

Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (Freedom of Information Act), a request for access to information must be in writing (s 15(2)). There is no special form that must be used, although agencies routinely produce forms that may assist applicants.

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 Information Privacy Access Application online form available from the Queensland Government’s Right to Information branch.

Under both Acts, access requests must be lodged with the agency or minister holding the documents. Where an agency receives a request for documents held by another agency, it may transfer the request to that other agency.

Applications should provide enough information about the documents requested that the agency can identify them. Agencies must help an applicant to frame the access request in a way that enables the agency to identify the documents requested. 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 as fees and charges may 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, ch3 pt 4 Right to Information Act). The application must also provide an address to which the agency can send notices. This does not need to be the applicant’s home address.

If an application is made for access to a document that relates to personal information, the applicant must also provide evidence of their identity within 10 business days after making the application (s 34(3) Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld)). If the application is made by an agent (including a lawyer) on their behalf, the agent must include evidence of their own identity as well as evidence of the applicant’s identity and evidence of the agent’s authority to make the application. Evidence of identity can include either an original or a certified copy of the person’s driver licence, birth certificate, passport or a statutory declaration from a person who has known the applicant for more than one year (certified by either a lawyer or notary public, justice of the peace or a commissioner for declarations).