Chapters

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth)

The Commonwealth was the first to introduce freedom of information legislation in Australia in 1982, followed over a ten year period by all States and Territories. The Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) is administered by the Information Commissioner.

Pro-disclosure culture

The objects of the FOI Act are a clear statement of the intention to promote disclosure of information held by government. The objects include to:

  • give the Australian community access to information by requiring agencies to publish the information, and provide a right of access
  • contribute to increased participation in government processes and increased scrutiny, discussion and review of government activities
  • increase recognition that information held by government is a national resource
  • promote public access to information, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost.

The FOI Act sets out a process for ensuring the public's right to access documents held by government, but it does not prevent agencies from disclosing information outside that process.

The Commonwealth Act exempts a number of agencies from the operation of the Act or exempts certain types of documents. These include some agencies engaged in commercial operations such as the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, or security organisations such as the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. The only exempt agency under the Tasmanian Act is the TT-Line. However, certain categories of information are exempted from the operation of the Tasmanian Act by various Acts of parliament. These include confidential records under the Mineral Resources Development Act and some Council documents under the Local Government Act.

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