Freedom of Information/Official diaries

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Members of the public might like to see the diaries (appointments, calendar, etc) of public officials

Such public officials might include the Prime Minister, Ministers and senior public servants such as the Secretary of a Department.

Common issues[edit | edit source]

  • Exemptions which may apply
    • Privacy/business information: disclosure of the names of people or organisations with whom an official is meeting may impinge on those parties' privacy or reveal sensitive information about their business.
    • Non-official content: For example, an elected official's diary may include party-political activities or private activities which may not be regarded as an official record that is subject to FOI.
  • Practical issues: the diary of a busy official consists of many small entries, each of which may have to be considered for redaction. Many entries refer to meetings with other parties, and so those other parties may need to be consulted, which increases the workload involved in process
    • For consultation with parties named in diaries, see Attorney-General v Dreyfus [2016] FCAFC 119.
  • Change of Minister - what happens to the documents?
    • If a documents is no longer held by the Minister (e.g. because there is a change of Minister and the documents are sent to the Minister's Department), the FOI Act ceases to apply to those documents: Philip Morris Ltd v Treasurer [2013] AICmr 88.

Examples[edit | edit source]

Australia[edit | edit source]

  • Prime Minister's official diary
    • Specific request for entries recording meetings with crossbenchers during a period of 12 months (21 August 2010 to 16 August 2011): Fletcher v Prime Minister [2013] AICmr 11
      • Practical refusal reason not made out
    • Diaries for 1 January 2010 to 22 March 2010 (former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd) and 30 August 2010 to 16 November 2010 (Prime Minister at the time of the request, Julia Gillard): Davies v Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet [2013] AICmr 10
      • Practical refusal reason made out: difficulties included assessing whether each entry was official or not, determining whether consultation with third parties was required, and undertaking that consultation.
    • Diary for first day in office (request by The Australian)
      • See Sean Parnell, 'Court win to pressure Turnbull into handing over official diary', The Australian, 23 December 2015 [1]
  • Commonwealth Attorney-General's official diary
    • Attorney-General v Dreyfus [2016] FCAFC 119.
      • The issue was whether processing the request for the Minister's (the Attorney-General in this case) official diary would unreasonable interfere with the Minister's functions (a 'practical refusal reason': FOI Act (Cth), s 24AA(1)(ii)). (In this case the Minister estimated that the process would take 630 hours.)
      • Under the Commonwealth FOI Act, a Minister must consult a third party if the Minister thinks that third party might reasonably wish to contend that some information be redacted to protect that person's business or personal information: FOI Act (Cth), ss 27(1)(b), 27A(1)(b). Such consultation made up a large component of the expected work required in processing the request.
      • The court decision was specifically about:
        • whether a Minister needs to find and consider extrinsic information in order to determine whether a person named in the diary needs to be consulted
        • whether a Minister needs to consult with every person named in his/her diary in order to determine whether that person might wish to claim an exemption.
      • The court held that the Minister only needed to refer to the document itself (i.e. the diary entry) in order to determine whether a third party needed to be consulted. The Minister did not need to go looking elsewhere for information to assist in that decision. Therefore the expected workload was reduced and a practical refusal reason did not exist.
      • See also
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs's official diary for December 2014