The Federal Government and each State Government have FOI laws which grant you a positive right of access to information.
This is intended to promote openness in Government accountability and to facilitate informed participation in democracy.
It also facilitates you being able to see the information that Government hold on you and allows you to apply for the amendment personal records that are found to be incomplete, incorrect, out-of-date or misleading.
Despite what the law might say, many people don’t get timely access to Government information. Here’s some reasons why:
- Officials think the information will be embarrassing to the Government and releasing it will affect their careers.
- Officials don’t want you to see the information because it will allow you to challenge their Departments .
- Officials are not properly trained in FOI law and incorrectly decide information is exempt from release, when in fact it should be released.
- FOI law is complex and many applicants struggle with the applications and lack the knowledge to appeal negative decisions. Officials know that most FOI applicants won’t challenge their decisions.
Delay Is the Enemy Of FOI
Officials may deny access to material because they know the appeals process takes time.
You get a partial or full access, but the delay has rendered the information virtually useless.
Here’s the number of Information Commissioner reviews over the past 4 years that were more than a year old as of 30 June.
There are ways to avoid some of the delays in the system.