Applying section 54 of the IP Act

May 19, 2020 - 2:20pm

Dealing with Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP Act) applications that aren’t limited to documents containing the applicant’s personal information can be challenging. It is important that decision makers follow section 54 of the IP Act and allow the applicant to either move their application to the RTI Act or change their application so it can be processed under the IP Act. If the applicant doesn’t choose one of those options, or if they fail to respond, the decision maker must make a decision refusing to deal with the application.

Decision makers do not have the power to alter the application and process part of it under the IP Act or to simply treat the application as being withdrawn.

Section 54 timeframes: no processing period, 15 business days, a reasonable time, 10 business days

When someone applies under the IP Act for documents that won’t contain their personal information, the processing period does not start. Instead, section 54 is triggered. This is because these applications are purported applications. As written, they cannot be made under the IP Act. The processing period will not start unless the applicant changes their application to remove the non-personal documents or moves it to the RTI Act and pays the application fee.

The decision maker must contact the applicant and notify them of the information set out in section 54(2) (a) to (c), ideally within 15 business days of the application arriving in the agency.

The applicant must be given a reasonable time to consult with the agency about how to respond. If they:

  • do not respond, or
  • if they respond and won’t swap to the RTI Act or remove the non-personal documents,

and the agency decides the application can’t be made under the IP Act, the decision maker must make a decision refusing to deal with the application and give it to the applicant within ten business days.

For more information on dealing with application made under the wrong Act, refer to the OIC guideline or contact the OIC Enquiries Service on 07 3234 7373 (select option 1).