Freedom of information
This appendix is provided in two parts. The first part is provided in accordance with the requirements of section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 as it existed during the period 1 July 2010 to 30 April 2011 inclusive. The second part provides information about the establishment of the Information Publication Scheme which commenced on 1 May 2011.
The former subsection 8(1) of the FOI Act set out the information which was previously updated and published by the department each year. The following information is correct to 30 April 2011 and covers:
- the organisation, functions and decision-making powers of the department
- access to records under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
- access to records under the Archives Act 1983
- outside participation in policy formulation
- categories of documents held by the department
- registers of Australian births overseas
- documents for sale and free of charge.
Organisation, functions and powers
The broad functions of the department are described in the Departmental Overview in Section 1 of this report. A chart showing the department’s executive structure as at 30 June 2011 appears on page 13. Further information on the organisation of the department can be found in Section 3: Corporate Management and Accountability. Legislation administered by the department is published in the Administrative Arrangements Order, which is available at http://www.dpmc.gov.au/parliamentary/docs/aao.pdf
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.
Members of the public seeking access to documents should lodge a formal Freedom of Information request. This must be made in writing, provide sufficient information to allow the department to identify documents sought, include a telephone number, a fax number (if available) and an address (or email address) to which notifications are to be addressed.
Requests should be sent to:
The Director, Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R G Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent, Barton ACT 0221
Tel: (02) 6261 2948
Fax: (02) 6261 2144
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 (Fees and Charges) Regulations: however, there is no charge for applicants seeking access to their own personal information. 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 by the applicant. Further advice regarding fees and charges may be obtained from the department’s FOI and Privacy Law Section.
Access to records under the Archives Act 1983
The Archives Act 1983 (the Archives Act) provides the National Archives of Australia with responsibility for preserving and conserving the archives of the Commonwealth. Currently an application can be lodged with the National Archives of Australia for public access to records that are in the ‘Open Period’ – i.e. records that are 30 or more years old. However, with the introduction of the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act 2010 the ‘Open Period’ has been reduced to 20 years, over a phasing-in period of 10 years, which commenced on 1 January 2011.
Inquiries regarding public access to archival records under the Archives Act 1983 should be addressed to:
National Archives of Australia
PO Box 7425, Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610
Tel: 1300 886 881
Fax: 1300 886 882
The Archives Act 1983 also allows the department to grant approved individuals special access to records not generally available to the public. Inquiries about eligibility for special access should be addressed to:
Historical Publications and Information Section, Information Resources Branch
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
R G Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent, Barton ACT 0221
Tel: (02) 6261 9836
Fax: (02) 6261 1445
The department publishes a comprehensive range of public information on our website at http://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/index.html
See Program 1.1.13 for further information on the department’s processing of FOI and archival access examination requests.
Members of the public are able to write to portfolio ministers about the range of policy and other matters dealt with by the department.
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:
|Representation on various bodies||
|Consultations regarding Australia’s multilateral, regional and bilateral trade negotiations||
|Consultations regarding development and prosecution of Australia’s approach to dispute settlement cases and issues in the WTO through the department’s WTO disputes inquiry point||
|Formal arrangements for consultations with interested bodies on trade-related matters||
|Consultations regarding Australian participation in international expositions||
|Consultation on Australia’s policy approach to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum||
|Consultation on security in the Asia-Pacific region||
|Business relations programs operated by the department’s state and territory offices||
|Liaison regarding agriculture, industrial products and services||
|Consultations concerning negotiations affecting specific multilateral environment treaties||
|Regular exchanges of views||
|Consultations on international humanitarian law||
|Consultations regarding Australia’s approach to human rights||
|Consultations on Antarctica||
|Consultations concerning UN sanctions||
|Consultations concerning the freezing of terrorist assets||
|Consultations on nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control issues||
|Consultation with bodies on promoting awareness and use of the department’s travel advisories||
Categories of documents
Documents are captured, managed and maintained in accordance with the department’s recordkeeping policy. Documents not needed for current business are transferred into archival custody or destroyed in accordance with an authorised disposal schedule. Australia’s overseas posts have document holdings of their own, which may parallel or complement those the department holds in Canberra and in state and territory offices.
The department has extensive document holdings including:
|Documents relating to relations and communications with foreign governments,
the United Nations,
United Nations agencies and other international organisations
|Documents relating to the administration of UN sanction enforcement laws||
|Documents relating to treaties||
|Documents relating to multilateral, regional and bilateral trade policy, including negotiations for trade agreements and the World Trade Organization||
|Documents relating to international security issues, including disarmament, arms control and nuclear non-proliferation||
|Documents relating to public diplomacy, including information and cultural programs||
|Documents relating to the history of the portfolio||
|Documents relating to passports and secure travel identification||
|Documents relating to provision of consular services to Australian citizens abroad||
|Documents relating to overseas property management||
|Documents relating to personnel management||
|Documents relating to financial management||
|Documents relating to internal departmental administration||documents and databases relating to the design, implementation and operation of the department’s electronic business systems
documents on personnel security, physical and protective security, funding of protective security measures, post inspection reports, technical and information technology security, and contingency plans in relation to the department’s operations abroad and in Australia
internal procedures and instructions including sets of administrative circulars and master sets of DFATNEWS, an internal departmental bulletin
|Documents relating to parliamentary services||ad hoc reports on overseas official travel by federal and state members of parliament
briefings for ministers on possible parliamentary questions, records of appearances by departmental officers before the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and other parliamentary committees
Cabinet submissions and decisions
Federal Executive Council minutes and accompanying documentation
Portfolio Budget Statements and Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements
|Documents relating to legal matters||documents and database records relating to litigation, legal advice, international legal process, FOI, Ombudsman and Privacy Act 1988 matters|
|Documents relating to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991||documents and database records related to policy and transactional issues under the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 (note: EFIC’s activities under parts 4 and 5 of the Act are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act 1982)|
Registers of Australian births overseas
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) 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 2007 at Australian overseas posts also maintain registers of Australians born overseas. Although data entered in our registers are regularly notified to DIAC, 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 free of charge or for purchase from the department. Many documents are presented in electronic form on websites maintained by the department at http://www.dfat.gov.au/ and at http://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/.
Information Publications Scheme
From 1 May 2011 agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. A departmental plan showing what information is published in accordance with the IPS requirements is accessible from the department’s website www.dfat.gov.au/foi/ips.html.