Freedom of Information and the Information Publication Scheme

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) is designed to give the Australian community access to information held by the Commonwealth Government. One of the ways this is done is by providing a legally enforceable right of access to documents, provided that they are not exempt documents.

Reforms to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) in November 2010 introduced fundamental changes to the way information held by government is managed and accessed by members of the public. Some of the major changes include encouraging a pro disclosure culture, establishment of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and reforms to FOI access requests.

For more general information and useful advice on FOI see the website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner at www.oaic.gov.au.

The 2010-11 reforms to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) have established the OAIC Information Publication Scheme (IPS) for relevant Australian Government agencies.

The IPS commenced on 1 May 2011 and requires agencies to publish a broad range of information on their websites, and to make it available for downloading where possible. The IPS will enhance the amount of government information that is available to the public and underpin a pro-disclosure culture across government. As part of this, agencies are also required to publish an Agency Plan to explain how they intend to implement the IPS.

PHIO Information Publication Scheme

Freedom of Information Requests - Disclosure Log

 

Making a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request

Requests

The Ombudsman has a policy of openness with the information it holds, with the exception of exempt documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Complainants can have access to material held on the complaints register and complaint files relating to them. (Material that would be exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act may be withheld if necessary.)

Access to Documents

People may obtain documents:

Information Requests

Informal requests for access to information held by the Ombudsman’s office can be made by telephone, email, personal visit or by letter. People can make the request either via the dispute resolution officer allocated to their case or that person’s supervisor.

Freedom of Information Act requests and procedures

If a person wishes to make a formal request under the FOI Act the request must:

  • be in writing;
  • state that the request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act;
  • provide enough information about the documents to enable the Ombudsman’s office to identify them; and
  • give details of how notices under the FOI Act may be sent to the applicant.

An FOI request can be sent to PHIO addressed to the Director, Policy & Client Services, Office of the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman.

The request may be via:

Charges

The FOI Act provides that charges may be imposed for processing FOI requests. PHIO does not have an application fee. Processing charges may apply under certain circumstances. These can be reduced or waived on certain grounds including hardship or public interest.

Processing of FOI Requests

We will acknowledge your request within 14 days after we have received your request. We will also give you an estimate of any charges that apply to your request.  

We are usually required to inform you of our decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended. If a document contains information about a third party, we will need to consult them and may need to extend the time to give you our decision by another 30 days. If for any other reason we are likely to need more than 30 days to complete your request, we will contact you to arrange an extension of time for processing of your request in accordance with the requirements under the FOI Act.

PHIO may also apply to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to apply for an extension of the processing time where exceptional circumstances would prevent us from processing your request in 30 days. You will be informed in writing if the processing time has been extended.

If we do not meet these 30 day time limits, you can apply to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to review our decision on the basis that we are deemed to have refused your request: www.oaic.gov.au.

If you disagree with our decision

When we have made a decision about your FOI request, we will send you a letter explaining our decision and your review and appeal rights.  You can ask for the following decisions to be reviewed:

  • if we refuse to give you access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access;
  • if we impose a charge; or
  • if we refuse to change or annotate information about you that you claim is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.

A third party who disagrees with our decision to give you documents that contain information about them can also ask for our decision to be reviewed.

Internal Review

You can request in writing that we reconsider our decision through an internal review. An internal review will be conducted by another officer in our agency. We will advise you of our new decision within 30 days of receiving your request.

Information Commissioner Review

You can ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review our original decision or our decision on internal review within 60 days of the date of decision (or 30 days after you are notified if you are an affected third party). The Information Commissioner can affirm or vary the decision or substitute a new decision. The Information Commissioner may decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances. More information is available at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website at www.oaic.gov.au.

Complaints

If you are unhappy with the way we have handled your request, you can contact the Australian Information Commissioner, who may investigate our actions. More information is available on the OAIC's website at www.oaic.gov.au. The Commonwealth Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about our actions. However, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner will consult to avoid the same matter being investigated twice.

More Information

If you require more information, please contact the Director, Policy & Client Services  on (02) 8235 8777 or by email at .