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Freedom of Information Act

Applied IT (Year 12) - Impacts of Technology (U3)

Christian Bien

Why Freedom of Information matters to all Australians | Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

In this video, the then Australian Information Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, discusses why Freedom of Information matters to all Australians.

What is the Freedom of Information Act?

Note: The following information is solely for educational purposes and is not intended for use as formal legal advice. Please contact an appropriate legal institution or legal aid for appropriate legal advice.

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 is administered by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OAIC) and allows an individual the right to access personal documents or documents in the public interest held by government ministers, government agencies and administrators of Norfolk Island.

What are the Exemptions Under the Freedom of Information Act?

Freedom of Information requests can be rejected under the following reasons: - National Security Risk: Any sensitive information that is regarded as a national security risk, such as documents held by the Australian Defence Force, cannot be released under freedom of information - Trade Secrets: Any sensitive information that contains details about trade and foreign economic affairs are excluded, such as exclusive DFAT information. - Private documents: Freedom of Information only applied to government documents. Private documents held by private entities cannot be accessed. Where requests under the Freedom of Information are rejected, a reason must be stated in writing. Individuals have the right to appeal Freedom of Information decisions with OAIC.

Why is Freedom of Information Important?

Three reasons why Freedom of Information is important:

  • Ensures government transparency.

  • Encourages active individual participation with government.

  • Taxpayers money is spent to produce government documents, therefore it is a public good and should be made available to the public.

Examples of items that can be requested under FOI:

  • Medical records.

  • Non-confidential government documents.

  • Personal documents relating to the individual - for example, credit rating/history.

You can read more about the Freedom of Information Act on the Office of the Australian Information Comissioner's Website.

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