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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

FOI technicalities take years to resolve

In this recent decision Justice Gray of the Federal Court, found that Federal ministers in receipt of a Freedom of Information application, can't simply transfer a request to their departments under Section 16 of the Act on the basis that the subject matter of the document sought is more closely connected to the functions of the departments, without first locating the documents in their possession. Even though it was accepted that the ministers didn't hold documents, the grounds on which they sought to transfer the requests were not open to them. It's another example of the legal technicalities involved in FOI administration.

A couple of other points. The applicant represented herself in the Federal Court, having rejected the services of a Court provided counsel "as she did not feel he had a sufficient understanding of administrative law". And she won.

The wheels of justice, as evidenced in this case, are moving at glacial speed. Justice Gray heard this matter on 15 February 2006. The decision was handed down on 8 August 2007. The original FOI applications go back to 2004.

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