Applying for documents during COVID-19

COVID-19 FINES AND INFORMATION

If you want to have a COVID-19 infringement notice reviewed, you need to contact the Queensland Police Service. You can do that here or contact the officer in charge of the police station. For more information, please see Policing in Queensland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For essential COVID-19 information, go here,

Applying for documents

The right to apply for documents under the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act)1 and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP Act) has not changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, because of this extraordinary situation, the way agencies process and handle applications will change. This Information Sheet is intended to assist applicants to understand some of the likely impacts arising from the pandemic.

Communicating with the agency

Most agencies have now enacted telecommuting arrangements for their staff. This means some RTI units will not have regular (or any) access to their physical mail and may not be able to be contacted by phone. If you need to contact a Queensland government agency over the next few months, send them an email. If possible, also submit RTI application forms electronically.2

Some agencies may temporarily alter their policies and accept evidence of identity electronically.  If you need to include evidence of identity with your application, or if you cannot locate a Justice of the Peace3, lawyer, or Commissioner for Declarations to certify your identification, contact the agency directly.

If you cannot find an email address for the agency, contact the Office of the Information Commissioner’s Enquiries Service at enquiries@oic.qld.gov.au for assistance.

Timeframes

Many agencies will need to ask for extensions of time to process applications during this period. Office closures, reduced staffing as officers are redeployed to duties related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and practical issues attached to working remotely will impact agencies’ ability to process applications. If an agency asks you for an extension of time it is important to bear in mind the current unique circumstances when considering the request. If you are concerned about the length of extra time the agency has requested, you could contact them to discuss other options.

You should also keep in mind that if the agency is not able to give you a decision within the required timeframe (or any extension of time) then it will be a ‘deemed decision’, which means access is refused to all the information you requested. At that stage the agency must stop processing the application and your only option will be to apply for an external review to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC)

If you apply for an external review because of a deemed decision, the OIC can send the application back to the agency and give them more time to process it. If your application remains with the OIC, you should be aware that there are no set timeframes in the RTI Act for how long an external review will take. While every effort is made to resolve them as quickly as possible, depending on the issues involved and procedural fairness obligations, it may take significantly longer. For more information refer to Explaining Your Review Rights.

Temporarily inaccessible documents

While agency offices are physically closed across the State and staff are working remotely or in some case redeployed to duties relating to COVID-19, certain documents will be inaccessible. For example, hard copy documents may not be available if particular offices are closed and it is not possible to physically search for documents. If this situation arises on your application the agency will contact you to explain and may ask whether you would be willing to exclude them from your application. It is your decision whether you agree to this or not. If you agree, you will be able to apply for these documents at a later date, when they can once again be accessed.

If an agency cannot search for and locate a document, then they may refuse access to it if they have taken all reasonable steps in the circumstances to locate it. You will have review rights if this happens.

Exercising your review rights

If you are not satisfied with the agency’s decision on your application, you will have the right to seek a review. Please see Explaining your review rights for more information.

Applying for internal review

Details of how to apply for an internal review should be included in your decision notice, or you can contact the agency to ask how you should apply.

Applying for external review

The Office of the Information Commissioner’s physical office has closed but staff are working remotely. Wherever possible, applications for external review should be made electronically by emailing administration@oic.qld.gov.au or via the online form.

More questions?

If you have any general questions then please contact the agency you are applying to or the OIC Enquiries Service by emailing enquiries@oic.qld.gov.au or calling 07 3234 7373 (select option 1).

Current as at: May 26, 2020