If your Commonwealth Government Freedom of Information (“FOI”) request is refused you can apply for a review of the decision. If you are not given the reasons for the refusal, in writing, make sure you ask for the reasons and make sure they are in writing.
You need to make sure you comply with any time limitations in relation to seeking to have the decision reviewed.
What happens in an ”internal” FOI review?
Generally, the first review is what is termed “internal”. That is the principal officer of the agency you asked for the documents from will review the decision. You have 30 days to lodge an application for a review.
If the internal review is not successful you will need to seek a review of the decision from the Information Commissioner at the Office of Australia Information Commissioner.
What happens with a review by the Information Commissioner?
Generally, you will need to lodge any application for review with the Information Commissioner within 60 days of the day you receive the decision in relation to the internal review. However, you can apply for an extension of time if needed and the Information Commission will assess the application for an extension of time.
In the case where your FOI request is for documents in relation to another person, the time limit to lodge the application for review with the Information Commission must be made within 30 days.
The Office of Australia Information Commissioner website has all the information needed to lodge an application for review.
Occasionally, the Information Commissioner will transfer an investigation into the review, onto the Ombudsman. However, this is usually limited to investigations where a party has complained about the Commissioner or the Commissioner’s investigation or where there are other issues involved in the FOI requests which are more appropriately dealt with by the Ombudsman.
The Information Commissioners guidelines can be accessed here.