Accessing government-held information

What is right to information?

Right to Information has replaced Freedom of Information in Queensland. Right to Information requires Queensland government agencies to push information out into the public space and make information available, unless there is a good reason not to. The legislation intends that as far as possible you will receive the information you ask for without having to make a formal access application.

Who can I get information from?

Information is available from Queensland government agencies. This means you can ask Ministers, departments, local councils and public authorities such as universities or water providers for any information you are interested in seeing.

What can I apply for?

If you don’t receive the information you requested, you can apply for it under either: the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) or the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act). Use the IP Act if you want documents that only contain your own personal information. Use the RTI Act for all other documents. ‘Documents’ can include paper or other material with writing, electronic records or images.

Where do I start?

Identify what information you would like to access.

  • Do you know the type of document the information may be contained in? For example a report, correspondence, manual
  • Do you know when the document was created? For example, 2009-10 financial year or January 2011.

This information will make it easier for the agency to find the information and reduce the fees you must pay if you need to make a formal application.

Is the information already available?

Check the relevant agency’s website to see if the information is already available.

Where on the website should I look?

All Queensland government agencies provide a publication scheme through their website. The publication scheme lists publicly available documents including financial information, services, decisions, policies and priorities. Documents that have already been released under formal Right to Information applications may be available in a disclosure log listed on the agencies website.

What if I can’t find the information I’m looking for?

You can contact the agency’s customer service area, enquiries service or Right to Information unit by phone or email. Try to provide as much detail as you can about the information you are seeking. This will help agency staff to provide you with the best possible response. Staff will be able to tell you the best way to access the information and what to ask for. You can also ask if you can access the information through one of the agency’s administrative access schemes. This means they may provide you with the information without the need for a formal application under the Act.

What if the agency won’t give me the information I want?

If you cannot access the information informally, you can submit a formal application.

  • If you are only seeking documents that contain your personal information then you may apply under the IP Act.
  • If you would like any documents that do not contain your personal information you will need to apply under the RTI Act.

Your application should be made to the relevant agency by completing and submitting the approved form.

How much does it cost?

There is an application fee and processing charges for RTI applications which are set out in the Fees and Charges guideline. There may also be access charges of twenty five cents per A4 page for copies of documents provided as a black and white photocopy. There are no charges if it takes less than 5 hours to process the application and if you get the documents electronically, such as by email or on a DVD. Under the IP Act there is no application fee or processing charges, but there may be access charges if you do not want electronic copies.

How long does it take?

Under the RTI Act and IP Act an agency has 25 business days to make a decision. If they have to consult with a third party they have ten extra business days. There are other situations that can extend the time, but the agency should keep you informed if this happens. The agency can also ask you for more time.

Where can I get more information?

Customer services, enquires or Right to Information staff within the agency you would like to obtain information from may be able to assist you. Contact details for some right to information units are available.

Office of the Information Commissioner provides guidance about how the legislation operates through a range of information and resources or contact us.