The External Review Team has developed some tips when considering the definition of a ‘document’ under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act).
This is an important question as only documents, as specifically defined in the legislation, are subject to the formal access and amendment application processes. While the full definitions are set out in the RTI Act, here is a quick reminder:
A ‘document’ is defined in the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld) to include:
This is a non-exhaustive definition, i.e. it doesn’t exclude or limit the type of articles that may be considered to be ‘documents’.
Tip: Some documents which are often overlooked, but are subject to the RTI and IP Acts, are post-it notes, drafts and notebooks.
It seems like common sense that an access applicant would only seek one copy where there are exact duplicates of a document, particularly to reduce processing time and cost for the applicant. However, the RTI and IP Acts are silent in this regard.
Therefore, agencies and Ministers must consider duplicates to be within scope unless they are specifically excluded by the applicant.
An effective way of dealing with exact duplicates can be to advise the applicant that to reduce costs and time duplicates will be considered to be out of scope unless the applicant advises the agency or Minister otherwise by a certain date before the decision is due.
This can be achieved by including an explanatory paragraph in the standard acknowledgement letter, or dealt with by a telephone call to the applicant.
Tip: A document must not be considered to be a duplicate where it contains additional handwritten notations or other information.