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Appendix 5

Freedom of Information

This statement is provided in accordance with section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and is correct to 30 June 2003.

It covers:

Access to records under the Freedom of Information Act 1982

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 extends the right to obtain access to documents in the Government’s possession. Access is limited only by exemptions that protect essential public interests and the private and business affairs of people about whom departments and statutory authorities collect and hold information. During the year, we met our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, processing 63 requests.

Members of the public seeking access to documents should lodge a formal Freedom of Information request. This must be made in writing, be accompanied by a $30 application fee, and include a telephone number, a fax number (if available) and an address within Australia to which notifications are to be addressed. Requests should be sent to:

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R G Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221
Tel: (02) 6261 2903
Tel: (02) 6261 1170

The department’s state and territory offices can also be contacted for this purpose (see inside back cover of this annual report for a list of addresses).

Decisions on granting access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 are generally made by the departmental Senior Executive Service member responsible for the work area to which the request relates.

The department levies the applicable fees and charges imposed under the Freedom of Information Regulations (Fees and Charges). Such fees and charges may be remitted, reduced or not imposed for any reason, including if grounds of financial hardship or general public interest can be established. Further advice regarding fees and charges may be obtained from the department’s Freedom of Information Unit.

Access to records under the Archives Act 1983

Records more than 30 years old are available for public access under the Archives Act 1983, except for information that falls into an exempted category. Archival records are not subject to the Privacy Act 1988 and most exemptions in departmental records relate to intelligence, security, defence or international relations sensitivities. Records are mostly held by the National Archives of Australia.

Applications for access under the Archives Act 1983 should be addressed to:

Director, Access and Information Services
National Archives of Australia
PO Box 7425
Canberra Mail Centre ACT 2610
Tel: (02) 6212 3600

The Archives Act 1983 also allows the department to grant approved individuals special access to records not generally available to the public. Where the records contain potentially exempt material, a charge will be levied to cover the actual cost of assessment and administration. Inquiries about eligibility for special access or information on departmental history should be addressed to:

Director, Historical Research and Access
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R G Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221
Tel: (02) 6261 2619
Tel: (02) 6261 2628

We also publish a comprehensive range of public information on our website (www.dfat.gov.au).

Functions and powers

The department exercises, or participates in the exercise of, the following functions and decision-making powers:

Organisation

A chart showing the department’s senior executive structure as at 30 June 2003 appears in the Departmental Overview section of this report. Further information on the organisation of the department can be found in Section 3—Corporate Management and Accountability.

Outside participation

The department is open to the views of outside organisations and provides opportunities for members of the community to contribute to developing aspects of Australia’s international relations through:

Categories of documents

Documents more than five years old are transferred into archival custody or destroyed in accordance with a disposal schedule. Australia’s overseas posts have documentary holdings of their own, which may parallel those the department holds in Canberra and in state and territory offices.

The department has extensive documentary holdings, including:

Registers of Australian births overseas

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs records details of Australians born overseas. People may seek extracts from the registers through that department. Consular officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade performing functions under the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 at Australian overseas posts also maintain registers of Australians born overseas. Although data entered in our registers is regularly notified to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the registers themselves are held at the posts concerned. People may request and obtain extracts from the relevant posts.

Documents for sale and free of charge

A range of documents, including the department’s annual report, are available either for purchase or for free from the department. Many are also accessible on the department’s website. A list of departmental publications produced or updated during the year in review is provided in the online version of this report.

 

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2002–2003
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