Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally



Appendix 5

Freedom of information

This appendix is provided in two parts. The first part is provided in accordance with the requirements of section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 as it existed during the period 1 July 2010 to 30 April 2011 inclusive. The second part provides information about the establishment of the Information Publication Scheme which commenced on 1 May 2011.

The former subsection 8(1) of the FOI Act set out the information which was previously updated and published by the department each year. The following information is correct to 30 April 2011 and covers:

  • the organisation, functions and decision-making powers of the department
  • access to records under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
  • access to records under the Archives Act 1983
  • outside participation in policy formulation
  • categories of documents held by the department
  • registers of Australian births overseas
  • documents for sale and free of charge.

Organisation, functions and powers

The broad functions of the department are described in the Departmental Overview in Section 1 of this report. A chart showing the department’s executive structure as at 30 June 2011 appears on page 13. Further information on the organisation of the department can be found in Section 3: Corporate Management and Accountability. Legislation administered by the department is published in the Administrative Arrangements Order, which is available at http://www.dpmc.gov.au/parliamentary/docs/aao.pdf

Access to records under the Freedom of Information Act 1982

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 extends the right to obtain access to documents in the Government’s possession. Access is limited only by exemptions that protect essential public interests and the private and business affairs of people about whom departments and statutory authorities collect and hold information.

Members of the public seeking access to documents should lodge a formal Freedom of Information request. This must be made in writing, provide sufficient information to allow the department to identify documents sought, include a telephone number, a fax number (if available) and an address (or email address) to which notifications are to be addressed.

Requests should be sent to:

The Director, Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R G Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent, Barton ACT 0221
Tel: (02) 6261 2948
Fax: (02) 6261 2144
Email: foi@dfat.gov.au

Decisions on granting access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 are generally made by the departmental Senior Executive Service member responsible for the work area to which the request relates.

The department levies the applicable fees and charges imposed under the Freedom of Information (Fees and Charges) Regulations: however, there is no charge for applicants seeking access to their own personal information. Such fees and charges may be remitted, reduced or not imposed for any reason, including if grounds of financial hardship or general public interest can be established by the applicant. Further advice regarding fees and charges may be obtained from the department’s FOI and Privacy Law Section.

Access to records under the Archives Act 1983

The Archives Act 1983 (the Archives Act) provides the National Archives of Australia with responsibility for preserving and conserving the archives of the Commonwealth. Currently an application can be lodged with the National Archives of Australia for public access to records that are in the ‘Open Period’ – i.e. records that are 30 or more years old. However, with the introduction of the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act 2010 the ‘Open Period’ has been reduced to 20 years, over a phasing-in period of 10 years, which commenced on 1 January 2011.

Inquiries regarding public access to archival records under the Archives Act 1983 should be addressed to:

National Archives of Australia
PO Box 7425, Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610
Tel: 1300 886 881
Fax: 1300 886 882

The Archives Act 1983 also allows the department to grant approved individuals special access to records not generally available to the public. Inquiries about eligibility for special access should be addressed to:

Historical Publications and Information Section, Information Resources Branch
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
R G Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent, Barton ACT 0221
Tel: (02) 6261 9836
Fax: (02) 6261 1445

The department publishes a comprehensive range of public information on our website at http://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/index.html

See Program 1.1.13 for further information on the department’s processing of FOI and archival access examination requests.

Outside participation

Members of the public are able to write to portfolio ministers about the range of policy and other matters dealt with by the department.

The department is open to the views of outside organisations and provides opportunities for members of the community to contribute to developing aspects of Australia’s international relations through:

Representation on various bodies
  • Australia–China Council
  • Australia France Foundation (whose director is located in the Australian embassy in Paris)
  • Australia–India Council
  • Australia–Indonesia Institute
  • Australia International Cultural Council
  • Australia–Japan Foundation
  • Australia–Korea Foundation
  • Australia–Malaysia Institute
  • Australian National Commission for UNESCO
  • Australia–Thailand Institute
  • Council for Australian–Arab Relations
  • Council on Australia Latin America Relations
Consultations regarding Australia’s multilateral, regional and bilateral trade negotiations
  • state and territory governments
  • industry associations, peak bodies and organisations
  • companies and business people
  • non-government organisations and public interest and community groups
  • academic institutions
  • individuals seeking consultation
  • individuals or groups responding to calls for public submissions
  • statutory authorities
Consultations regarding development and prosecution of Australia’s approach to dispute settlement cases and issues in the WTO through the department’s WTO disputes inquiry point
  • companies and business people
  • industry associations, peak bodies and organisations
  • other groups and individuals seeking consultation
Formal arrangements for consultations with interested bodies on trade-related matters
  • statutory authorities
Consultations regarding Australian participation in international expositions
  • companies and business people
  • industry associations, peak bodies and organisations
  • state and territory governments
Consultation on Australia’s policy approach to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum
  • APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC)
  • Australian Chapter of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Committee (PECC)
Consultation on security in the Asia-Pacific region
  • academic community
  • foreign and strategic policy institutions
Business relations programs operated by the department’s state and territory offices
  • companies and business people
  • identified interest groups and stakeholders within each state and territory
Liaison regarding agriculture, industrial products and services
  • Commonwealth agencies with relevant technical competencies
  • industry associations, peak bodies and organisations
  • state and territory governments
Consultations concerning negotiations affecting specific multilateral environment treaties
  • environmental organisations
  • industry associations, peak bodies and organisations
  • state and territory governments
Regular exchanges of views
  • Amnesty International and other human rights organisations
  • United Nations Association of Australia
Consultations on international humanitarian law
  • Australian Red Cross
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
Consultations regarding Australia’s approach to human rights
  • non-government organisations
Consultations on Antarctica
  • tourism companies
  • non-government organisations
Consultations concerning UN sanctions
  • industry and business associations, peak bodies and organisations/other groups
Consultations concerning the freezing of terrorist assets
  • Australia’s financial sector
Consultations on nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control issues
  • non-government organisations
Consultation with bodies on promoting awareness and use of the department’s travel advisories
  • Australian Federation of Travel Agents and other peak travel industry bodies
  • smartraveller Consultative Group

Categories of documents

Documents are captured, managed and maintained in accordance with the department’s recordkeeping policy. Documents not needed for current business are transferred into archival custody or destroyed in accordance with an authorised disposal schedule. Australia’s overseas posts have document holdings of their own, which may parallel or complement those the department holds in Canberra and in state and territory offices.

The department has extensive document holdings including:

Documents relating to relations and communications with foreign governments,
the United Nations,
United Nations agencies and other international organisations
  • briefs for Australian delegations and ministers visiting overseas
  • cables, minutes, memorandums, file notes and emails
  • database of ministerial commitments
  • discretionary grants program annual review papers
  • documents and database records relating to foreign diplomatic and consular missions, international organisations and personnel in Australia
  • documents and database records relating to visa applications referred for clearance under Public Interest Criteria 4003 of the Migration Regulations
  • documents received from foreign governments, including notes verbale and aides-mémoire
  • documents received from the UN, UN agencies and other international organisations, including notes verbale
  • documents relating to human rights
  • documents relating to international environment policy and programs
  • programs for ministers visiting overseas
  • reports on meetings and conferences
  • submissions to portfolio ministers and senior officers
  • texts of speeches and press statements on foreign affairs and trade
Documents relating to the administration of UN sanction enforcement laws
  • applications for permits under UN sanction enforcement laws and associated documents
  • documents and written information produced under s30 of the Charter of the UN Act
  • other correspondence and inquiries relating to the implementation of UN sanctions in Australia
Documents relating to treaties
  • arrangements of less-than-treaty status
  • Australian treaty collection
  • database of all treaties to which Australia is a party and related metadata including access to texts via the electronic Australian Treaties Library maintained by the Australasian Legal Information Institute
  • documents and databases relating to multilateral and bilateral treaties and arrangements
  • national interest analyses on treaties submitted to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
Documents relating to multilateral, regional and bilateral trade policy, including negotiations for trade agreements and the World Trade Organization
  • briefs for Australian delegations and ministers visiting overseas
  • cables, minutes, memorandums, file notes and emails
  • submissions to portfolio ministers and senior officers
  • draft agreements and negotiating texts
  • official WTO documents, including reports, meeting agendas, declarations, statements and technical working papers
  • reports on meetings and conferences
  • texts of speeches and press statements on trade issues
  • reports and papers analysing the impact of trade liberalisation and other aspects of trade policy
  • submissions from stakeholders
  • documents received from foreign governments
  • statistical trade data
Documents relating to international security issues, including disarmament, arms control and nuclear non-proliferation
  • briefs for Australian delegations and ministers visiting overseas
  • cables, minutes, memorandums, file notes and emails
  • documents and database records relating to international counter-terrorism cooperation
  • documents and database records relating to the negotiation and implementation of international security treaties to which Australia is a party
  • texts of speeches and press statements on international security issues
  • submissions to portfolio ministers and cabinet
  • reports and strategic policy papers analysing cross-cutting global, political and strategic issues
Documents relating to public diplomacy, including information and cultural programs
  • documents relating to cultural promotion activities and visits programs
  • documents relating to international expositions
  • documents relating to public diplomacy and advocacy
  • documents relating to international scholarships
  • public information materials projecting Australia and its policies overseas on film, video cassette, radio tape, CD, slide, DVD and written forms
Documents relating to the history of the portfolio
  • publications register
  • research papers and drafts of manuscripts and related material compiled to inform authors and editors preparing material for publication in stand-alone publications and/or series papers (note: publications are available for purchase from the department’s website at: www.dfat.gov.au/publications. Draft manuscripts may also be held by the National Archives of Australia and other research institutes.)
Documents relating to passports and secure travel identification
  • documents on fraud investigations
  • documents related to seizure of foreign passports under the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005
  • records of passport issue details, electronic record of passport applications and relevant attachments
  • working files, including passport case files and case management databases, and correspondence related to issuing passports and other travel documentation under the Australian Passports Act 2005
Documents relating to provision of consular services to Australian citizens abroad
  • emergency task force papers
  • working files, including consular case files and case management databases and correspondence
  • documents on consular contingency plans in relation to the department’s operations abroad
Documents relating to overseas property management
  • documents relating to overseas property management, including maintenance records, leasing and security
Documents relating to personnel management
  • information on employment histories and biographical details
  • documents and databases relating to human resources management including personnel records and documents on personnel planning, conditions of service, career development counselling, discipline, reviews undertaken pursuant to section 33 of the Public Service Act 1999 and termination matters
  • documents and databases relating to staff employed overseas (locally engaged staff), their salaries, conditions, classifications and numbers
  • personal security files on security-cleared personnel
  • records of travel, removals and storage
  • training material in various forms
Documents relating to financial management
  • documents and database records relating to procurement and contract management including résumés and contracts for contractors/consultants
  • documents and databases relating to budget resources management and property and accommodation matters within Australia
  • documents relating to funding, financial operations, debtors and payment of claims in Australia and overseas
financial and expenditure records
Documents relating to internal departmental administration documents and databases relating to the design, implementation and operation of the department’s electronic business systems

documents on personnel security, physical and protective security, funding of protective security measures, post inspection reports, technical and information technology security, and contingency plans in relation to the department’s operations abroad and in Australia

internal procedures and instructions including sets of administrative circulars and master sets of DFATNEWS, an internal departmental bulletin
Documents relating to parliamentary services ad hoc reports on overseas official travel by federal and state members of parliament

briefings for ministers on possible parliamentary questions, records of appearances by departmental officers before the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and other parliamentary committees

Cabinet submissions and decisions

Federal Executive Council minutes and accompanying documentation

ministerial correspondence

Portfolio Budget Statements and Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements
Documents relating to legal matters documents and database records relating to litigation, legal advice, international legal process, FOI, Ombudsman and Privacy Act 1988 matters
Documents relating to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 documents and database records related to policy and transactional issues under the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 (note: EFIC’s activities under parts 4 and 5 of the Act are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act 1982)

Registers of Australian births overseas

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) records details of Australians born overseas. People may seek extracts from the registers through that department. Consular officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade performing functions under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 at Australian overseas posts also maintain registers of Australians born overseas. Although data entered in our registers are regularly notified to DIAC, the registers themselves are held at the posts concerned. People may request and obtain extracts from the relevant posts.

Documents for sale and free of charge

A range of documents, including the department’s annual report, are available either free of charge or for purchase from the department. Many documents are presented in electronic form on websites maintained by the department at http://www.dfat.gov.au/ and at http://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/.

Information Publications Scheme

From 1 May 2011 agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. A departmental plan showing what information is published in accordance with the IPS requirements is accessible from the department’s website www.dfat.gov.au/foi/ips.html.

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