Overview of section 55 RTI Act

Section summary

An agency or Minister may decide to neither confirm nor deny the existence of a document that, if it did exist, would contain 'prescribed information'. This decision is taken to be a refusal of access under section 47 of the RTI Act.1


Section 55(1) of the RTI Act replicates section 35 of the repealed FOI Act, with one substantive difference; the previous legislation referred to 'exempt matter under section 36, 37, 42 or 42A', rather than 'prescribed information', as is the case under the RTI Act. ‘Prescribed information’ covers a wider variety of information, including personal information disclosure of which would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest under section 47(3)(b).

Other relevant RTI/IP Act sections

Schedule 6 RTI Act
Schedule 6 of the RTI Act defines 'prescribed information'.  

Section 109 RTI Act
If, on external review, the Information Commissioner is not satisfied that the relevant document contains 'prescribed information', the Information Commissioner must first give a copy of that decision to the agency or Minister only. If at the end of 20 business days after the date of the decision, the Information Commissioner has not been notified that the agency or Minister has applied for judicial review or appealed to QCAT on a question of law, the Information Commissioner must give a copy of the decision to the applicant.

If the Information Commissioner directs that access to the document is to be granted and the agency or Minister does not apply for judicial review or appeal to QCAT at the end of 20 business days after the date of decision, the agency or Minister must comply with the direction.

Section 191 RTI Act
This section concerns the content of a prescribed written notice under the RTI Act. Under section 55(2) the agency or Minister is not required to include the details mentioned in section 191(a) or (b) (ie decision and reasons for decision respectively) in a prescribed written notice when relying on section 55.  

1 Section 55(4) of the RTI Act.

Last updated: November 20, 2013