Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information


© Commonwealth of Australia 1979

ISBN 0 642 04524 0

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View the report as a single document - (PDF format) - 20 082 KB

View the report as separate downloadable parts:



Chapter 1: Terms of reference and conduct of inquiry - (PDF format)
Terms of reference
Collection of evidence
Appointment of advisers

Chapter 2: The background to the Bill: freedom of information in Australia and overseas - (PDF format)
Overseas developments
- European countries
- United States of America
- Commonwealth countries

Chapter 3: The Freedom of Information Bill: the issues summarised - (PDF format)
The need for Freedom of Information legislation
The compatability of Freedom of Information legislation with the basic principles of our system of government
- The Westminster system
- Executive and Crown privilege
- The role of Parliament
Administrative burdens
Exceptions and exemptions
Access and appeal procedures
Protection for suppliers of information
Monitoring compliance with the Bill

Chapter 4: Implications of freedom of Information for the Westminster system of government - (PDF format)
The nature of the Westminster system
Collective ministerial responsibility
Individual ministerial responsibility
The neutrality of the Public Service
The anonymity of the Public Service

Chapter 5: Implications for the Sankey v Whitlam judgement for Freedom of Information - (PDF format)
The decision
Implications of the decision
Conclusive certificates
Internal working documents (clause 26)
'Public interest'

Chapter 6: Resource implications - (PDF format)
Introduction: the problem
Overseas experience
Expected utilisation of the Act
Expected staffing and other costs
Training and development
Commencement of the legislation (clause 2)
Resource implications of proposed changes to the Bill
Offsetting savings


Chapter 7: Directories, indexes and manuals - (PDF format)
The meaning of documents
Directory of government activity (clause 6)
Publication of manuals and indexation of internal laws (clause 7)
- Letters of advice to persons outside the agency
- Statements of policy

Chapter 8: Processing access requests - (PDF format)
The obligation to facilitate access (clauses 9 and 13)
A Freedom of Information Handbook
Form of requests (clause 13)
Transfer of requests (clause 14)
Requests for non-written information (clause 15)
Time limits (clause 17)

Chapter 9: Making the access decision - (PDF format)
Duty and discretion in decision making (clauses 16 and 12)
Authority to make decisions
Giving reasons and other particulars (clause 22)
Protecting the information giver

Chapter 10: Meeting succesful requests - (PDF format)
Forms of access (clause 18)
The problem of copyright
Deferment of access (clause 19)
Deletion of exempt matter (clause 20)

Chapter 11: Charges and fees - (PDF format)
The present provisions: safeguards and weaknesses
Setting of charges for services and materials
Standardisation of charges
Time at which charges to be paid
Waiver of fees


Chapter 12: Exemptions of agencies and classes of documents (clauses 4 and 5) - (PDF format)
The principle of exemption by regulation
Individual claims to exemption by regulation
Inhibiting effect on the supply of future information
Personnel assessments
Exclusion of the courts, the Parliament and certain industrial bodies
Individual claims to exemption by inclusion in clause 4

Chapter 13: Refusal of access on administrative grounds (clause 13) - (PDF format)

Chapter 14: Prior documents - (PDF format)

Chapter 15: Part IV exemptions - (PDF format)
Different forms of exemption
Forms of exemption in the Bill

Chapter 16: Security, defence and international relations - (PDF format)
The equivalent United States exemption
The Protective Security Handbook
Classification of portion of a document
The nature of the classification marking
Amendment of clause 23
Review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Chapter 17: Commonwealth-State relations (clause 23) - (PDF format)
The issues raised by clause 23
Information supplied to the Commonwealth by a State

Chapter 18: Cabinet and Executive Council documents (clauses 24 and 25) - (PDF format)
The scope of the exemption
Appeal rights
Judicial power

Chapter 19: Internal working documents (clause 26) - (PDF format)
Arguments for protecting internal working documents
Arguments favouring greater openness
Drafting of clause 26
Paragraph (1) (b) - the public interest criterion

Chapter 20: Law enforcement documents (clause 27) - (PDF format)

Chapter 21: Prescribed secrecy provisions (clause 28) - (PDF format)
Section 70 of the Crimes Act

Chapter 22: Adverse effect on agency operations - (PDF format)

Chapter 23: Privilege and contempt (clauses 31, 35 and 36) - (PDF format)
Pending or likely legal proceedings
Discloseure which would be a contempt of Parliament or of a court
Privileged documents

Chapter 24: Privacy (clause 30) - (PDF format)
Privacy - the general issue
Protection of privacy in the Bill
Desirability of a Right to Privacy Act
Correction of personal files

Chapter 25: Commercially sensitive and other confidential information (clauses 32 and 34) - (PDF format)
Breach of confidence
Trade secrets
Reverse - FOI

Chapter 26: National economy (clause 33) - (PDF format)


Chapter 27: Present and proposed review procedures - (PDF format)
Review procedures under the present Bill
Proposed review procedures

Chapter 28: Internal review - (PDF format)
Procedures generally
Time limits
Internal review and the Ombudsman

Chapter 29: Role of the Ombudsman - (PDF format)

Chapter 30: Proceedings before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal - (PDF format)
Initiation of proceedings
Awarding costs
Power to waive fees
Expedition of priority matters
The language of tribunal decisions: disclosing the existence of a document


Chapter 31: Administrative monitoring - (PDF format)
Departmental responsibilities
Attorney-General's Department
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Public Service Board
The Ombudsmand

Chapter 32: Parliamentary monitoring - (PDF format)
Reports by agencies
The Attorney-General's Report
Report by the Ombudsman
Future review by Parliamentary Committee


Chapter 33: The scope of the Archives Bill - (PDF format)
The present Bill
Thirty year rule
Exclusions and exemptions
Conclusive certificates

Chapter 34: Pricedures under the Archives Bill - (PDF format)
Access procedures
Review and appeal
Advisory Council on Australian Archives
Review of operation of Bill



Appendix 1: The Freedom of Information Bill 1978 - (PDF format)

Appendix2: The Archives Bill 1978 - (PDF format)

Appendix 3: The Protective Security Handbook - (PDF format)

Appendix 4: Public Service Board Summary of Responses to Survey - (PDF format)

Appendix 5: Responses received to questions placed on notice - (PDF format)

Appendix 6: Provisions of Commonwealth legislation which restrict access to information - (PDF format)

Appendix 7: Witnesses - (PDF format)

Appendix 8: Submissions - (PDF format)

Appendix 9: Committee Documents - (PDF format)


INDEX - (PDF format)