The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (the GIPA Act) commenced 1 July 2010 and replaced the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and access to information provisions in the Local Government Act (section 12 & 13).
The focus of the GIPA Act is to maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic government that is open, accountable, fair and effective. The Act requires Council to proactively release information where possible, providing there is no overriding public interest against disclosure.
The Act establishes four ways that the public can access Council information:
1. Mandatory Disclosure
Some Council documents are considered ‘open access’ and will generally be published on Council’s website. If you are seeking an 'open access' document which is not available on the website, please contact Council's Customer Service Centre on 9748 9999 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. There are delays in processing documents to the website due to resources and systems capacity issues. Open Access information includes:
- Policy documents
- Council’s ‘open access’ documents
- Publication guide
- (Disclosure Log of access applications
- Government Contracts Register
2. Informal Release
Council can also release information in response to an informal request providing there is no overriding public interest against disclosure. Requests for informal release do not involve any fees or charges, except copying charges (where relevant).
Council can determine how the request is processed and in what form the information will be supplied. Informal application decisions are not reviewable.
For further information on making a request for informal release of information, please click here.
3. Formal Access
Persons making a formal access application have a legally enforceable right to be provided with this access unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information. Formal Access applications must be in writing, specifying that access to information is sought under the GIPA Act, accompanied by a fee of $30 and must contain enough detail to identify the information to which access is sought. Additional processing charges may apply to these applications.
Formal Access applications only apply to information held at the time the application is received and include information held by the agency's contractors engaged to provide services to the public on behalf of the agency. Formal Access applications are not required for Open Access information. Decisions are reviewable in certain circumstances.
For further information on making a request for formal release of information, please click here.
4. Proactive Release
In addition to the mandatory release of information, we are authorised to make any other information publicly available providing there is no overriding public interest against disclosure.
Overriding Public Interest
There is an overriding public interest against disclosure of government information for the purposes of the GIPA Act if (and only if) there are public interest considerations against disclosure and, on balance, those considerations outweigh the public interest considerations in favour of disclosure.
The GIPA Act provides that it would not be in the public interest to disclose information in the following circumstances:
- Responsible and effective government - e.g. where disclosure may prejudice the effective exercise by an agency of it's functions
- Law enforcement and security - e.g. where disclosure may reveal or tend to reveal the identity of an informant or prejudice the future supply of information from an informant, or where it might facilitate the commission of a criminal act
- Individual rights, judicial process and natural justice - e.g. where disclosure may reveal personal information, or reveal false or unsubstantiated allegations about a person that are defamatory
- Business interests of agencies or other persons - e.g. where disclosure might reveal commercial-in-confidence provisions of a government contract, or undermine competitive neutrality in connection with any functions of an agency
- Environment, culture, economy and general matters - e.g. where disclosure might endanger or prejudice any system or procedure for protecting the environment
- Secrecy provisions - where disclosure could constitute a contravention of a provision of any other Act or statutory rule that prohibits the disclosure of information
- Exempt documents under interstate Freedom of Information legislation
- Government information described in Schedule 1 of the Act - such as legal professional privilege
- Review of Decisions