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Consultation on draft revisions to Part 5 of the FOI Guidelines: Exemptions

The Law Council of Australia provided a submission to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (the OAIC) in relation to its consultation on draft revisions to Part 5 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Guidelines (the Guidelines).

Part 5 of the Guidelines, last updated in June 2019,1 outlines the exemptions in Division 2 of Part IV of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act) and explains the criteria that must be met before an agency or Minister refuses access to a document in response to an FOI request.

As set out in the Law Council’s recent submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee in relation to its inquiry into the operation of Commonwealth FOI laws, Commonwealth entities are increasingly—and at times, incorrectly—relying upon the exemptions under Part IV of the FOI Act. Given the importance of ensuring that Australia’s FOI regime promotes open and accountable governance, it is critical that clear and up-to-date guidance is provided by the OAIC to ensure that Commonwealth entities only rely upon statutory exemptions in circumstances where it is appropriate to do so.


1 Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (‘OAIC’), Freedom of Information Guidelines Part 5: Exemptions (Version 1.5, June 2019) <https://www.oaic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/7602/part-5-exemptions-v1-5.pdf>.
2 Law Council of Australia, The operation of Commonwealth Freedom of Information Laws (Submission, 14 June 2023) <https://lawcouncil.au/publicassets/a77217a5-8f14-ee11-9483-005056be13b5/2023%2006%2014%20-%20S%20-%20The%20operation%20of%20Commonwealth%20FOI%20laws.pdf> 14.

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