Application of sections 47(3)(f) and 53 RTI Act

Relevant considerations

1. Can the applicant reasonably access the document under another Act?

If an applicant can reasonably obtain access to a document under an Act1 other than the RTI Act, access to the document is otherwise available for the purposes of section 53(a) of the RTI Act, irrespective of whether a fee or charge applies.

The alternative means of access must be reasonably open to the applicant because restrictions on accessing the document under the statutory scheme or arrangement may invalidate this ground for refusing access.2

The Information Commissioner has previously indicated that the following, for example, may affect whether access is reasonably available to the applicant:3

  • if a document can be purchased, the reasonableness of access may depend on the availability of stock;
  • the cost of access (particularly if the fees are not prescribed by legislation); and
  • if a document can be accessed by inspection, the reasonableness of access may depend on the physical location of the document available.

The Information Commissioner has previously determined that documents tendered in court and marked as exhibits4 and court transcripts5 were reasonably available 'under another enactment'.6 Similarly, if an applicant has issued a notice of claim to a Department, all documents relevant to the matters in issue can be obtained from the Department in pre-court procedures under the Personal Injuries and Proceedings Act 2002 (Qld) and will therefore fall within section 53(a) of the RTI Act.7

2. Can the applicant reasonably access the document under arrangements made by an agency?

If an applicant can reasonably obtain access to a document under arrangements made by an agency, access to the document is otherwise available for the purposes of section 53(a) of the RTI Act, irrespective of whether a fee or charge applies.  As with 1 above, access must be reasonably available to the applicant.

Examples of alternative access arrangements include:

  • documents that are available on an agency’s website8
  • documents that can be accessed through the agency’s disclosure log;9 and
  • documents available through administrative access schemes such as the Queensland Police Services’ scheme for accessing Court Briefs.

3. Is the document reasonably available for public inspection under the Public Records Act 2002 (Qld) or in a public library?

A person may apply to the State Archivist for access to a public record that is in the custody of the Queensland State Archives (QSA).10 An application for access under the PRA must be accompanied by a fee prescribed under a regulation.

As with 1 above, access must be reasonably available to the applicant.

Sections 18 to 20 of the PR Act govern access to records in QSA’s custody.

Section 182 of the RTI Act provides that a document placed by an agency in QSA’s custody, and which is not reasonably available for inspection under the PR Act, is taken to be in the agency’s possession for the purposes of the RTI Act.  If the agency no longer exists, the document is taken to be in the possession of the agency whose functions are most closely related to the document, provided the agency is entitled to access the document.

a)  Is the document a copy of an agency document stored for preservation or safe custody in the QSA?

The RTI Act does not affect the provisions of the PR Act which relate to the QSA giving access to documents, nor does it prevent a person accessing a document in QSA’s custody, provided the person may be given access to the document under the RTI Act.11

b)  Is the document commercially available?

A document that is commercially available, such as a transcript of court proceedings,12 a title search or a SmartMap,13 is a document that is otherwise available.  It is irrelevant whether access is subject to a fee or a charge.


1 See sections 6 and 7 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld).
2 JM and Queensland Police Service (1995) 2 QAR 516 at paragraphs 28 and 29.  This decision was made under the now repealed Freedom of Information Act 1992 (Qld), however, the principles remain relevant in considering section 53(a) of the RTI Act.
3 JM and Queensland Police Service (1995) 2 QAR 516 at paragraphs 38, 40 and 41.
4 Such documents were found to be available under the Criminal Practice Rules 1900 (Qld) in Banks and Queensland Corrective Services Commission (Unreported, Queensland Information Commissioner, 25 February 1997).  This decision was made under the now repealed Freedom of Information Act 1992 (Qld), however, the principles remain relevant in considering section 53(a) of the RTI Act.
5 The transcripts were found to be available under the Criminal Code (Qld), the Criminal Practice Rules 1999 (Qld) and the Recording of Evidence Regulation 2008 (Qld) in Ferguson and Director of Public Prosecutions (Unreported, Queensland Information Commissioner, 31 July 1996).  This decision was made under the now repealed Freedom of Information Act 1992 (Qld), however, the principles remain relevant in considering section 53(a) of the RTI Act.
6 The term used in section 22 of the now repealed Freedom of Information Act 1992 (Qld),
7 (Unpublished OIC preliminary view).
8 (Unpublished OIC preliminary view).
9 Note to section 53(a) of the RTI Act.
10 Section 17 of the Public Records Act 2002 (Qld) (PR Act).
11 Section 180 of the RTI Act.
12 (Unpublished OIC Preliminary View).
13 (Unpublished OIC Preliminary View).

Last updated: March 16, 2012