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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

WA FOI Amendment and "difficult" applicants

I commented in an item below (Is too much FOI ever enough?) that Queensland was the only state with a provision in its Freedom of Information Act concerning vexatious applicants.

While this is true, the Freedom of Information Amendment Bill currently before the Western Australian Parliament contains broader powers to deal with applicants an agency might consider "difficult". The Amendment Act includes a new provision that will permit an agency to refuse to deal with an application in the following circumstances:
  • where the application is substantially in the same terms as one already made by this applicant;
  • where it is "frivolous or trivial" in nature;
  • where the application "is made in order to harass the agency";
  • where the application "amounts to an abuse of the right of access created by this Act".
The Minister's Second Reading Speech didn't provide any background on what led to the last two provisions or what they are intended to cover, particularly what would be considered an abuse of the right of access.

If passed by Parliament, these will break new ground in Australian FOI legislation. It remains to be seen how an agency might show that an application is "made in order to harass".

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