Copland and Department of Health

Application number:
1998 S0118
Decision date:
Wednesday, Aug 05, 1998

Copland and Gold Coast District Health Service
(1998 S0111, 5 August 1998) 

Copland and Prince Charles Hospital and District Health Service
(1998 S0112, 5 August 1998) 

Copland and Sunshine Coast District Health Service
(1998 S0113, 5 August 1998) 

Copland and Redcliffe-Caboolture District Health Service
(1998 S0114, 5 August 1998) 

Copland and Princess Alexandra Hospital and District Health Service
(1998 S0115, 5 August 1998) 

Copland and Logan-Beaudesert District Health Service
(1998 S0116, 5 August 1998) 

Copland and Cairns District Health Service
(1998 S0117, 5 August 1998) 

Copland and Queensland Health
(1998 S0118, 5 August 1998) 

This was a contested application brought by Queensland Health (and by seven other District Health Services to which the applicant's FOI access application had been part-transferred) for an extension of time under s.79(2) of the FOI Act to deal with the applicant's FOI access application. 

The FOI access application was divided into some 120 distinct sections, covering 23 closely typed pages, and accompanied by a six page letter containing material necessary to the understanding of the FOI access application itself.  It sought access to what was arguably an excessive number and volume of documents. 

However, on the face of the application, one would not have expected any excessive difficulty in identifying, locating or collating the requested documents within the filing systems of the relevant agencies.  This effectively precluded resort by the agencies to s.28(2) of the FOI Act.  In deciding, under s.79(2) of the FOI Act, to grant each agency an additional six weeks in which to deal with the relevant FOI access application, the Information Commissioner made the following observations: 

The terms of s.28(2) mean that considerations such as the time involved in consulting (as required by s.51 of the FOI Act) with a large number of [third parties] who are likely to have substantial concerns with disclosure to [the applicant] of information concerning them, and in examining a vast number of documents with a view to assessing whether they contain exempt matter and whether or not access should be refused to exempt matter (and in formulating reasons for decision accordingly), cannot be taken into account as grounds for refusing to deal with an FOI access application under s.28(2). However, such considerations are quite appropriate to be taken into account in the exercise of the discretion conferred on me by s.79(2) to grant an agency additional time to deal with an FOI access application which, on its face, is certain to make excessive demands in terms of consultation, decision-making time, and related demands in its processing.

[The applicant] has elected to make demands that, in my view, the relevant agencies could not reasonably be expected to accommodate within the ordinarily appropriate time-frames stipulated in s.27(4) and s.27(7) of the FOI Act.