Disclosure logs - departments and Ministers

This Guideline only applies to departments and Ministers (departments). Local governments, public authorities, government owned corporations and other agencies that are not departments or Ministers are subject to different requirements in relation to disclosure logs and should consult Disclosure Logs – agencies other than departments.1

All departments should read this Guideline in conjunction with the Ministerial Guidelines: Operation of Publication Schemes and Disclosure Logs2, with which departments are required to comply.

This guideline contains checklists at Appendix A and B to assist agencies to meet their disclosure log obligations. Appendix C contains information to assist agencies in maintaining their disclosure logs.

Overview

Section 78 of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) requires departments3 to include in their disclosure log information about valid applications received and documents released under the RTI Act. The inclusion of documents is subject to some limitations. For example, documents containing the applicant’s personal information must not be published.4

What is a disclosure log?

Disclosure logs form part of proactive disclosure of information promoted under the RTI Act.

A department's disclosure log is a document or a web page that provides details of applications that have been made to the department under the RTI Act. It is intended to make documents that have already been released under the RTI Act available to the public, wherever possible.

The reason for disclosure logs is that if one person has an interest in accessing particular documents, then the same documents might be of interest to the wider community. People who would otherwise have needed to submit their own formal access application, with the associated costs and timeframes, can instead access the documents on the disclosure log.

Disclosure logs also provide an opportunity for the agency to publish documents with associated supporting information, explaining issues of public interest in greater depth.

Section 78B – information that must not be included in a disclosure log

Some information must not be included in documents or information published in the disclosure log. Section 78B of the RTI Act requires a department to remove any information (including an individual's name) that:

  • is prevented by law from publication
  • may be defamatory
  • would unreasonably invade an individual’s privacy if it was included in the disclosure log
  • is, or allows to be ascertained, information—
    • of a confidential nature that was communicated in confidence by a person other than the agency;5 or
    • that is protected from disclosure under a contract6; or
  • would cause substantial harm to an entity if it was included in the disclosure log7.

A document that contains the applicant's personal information must not be included in the disclosure log.8

What is personal information?

Personal information is any information or an opinion, whether true or not, about an individual who identity is apparent, or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information or opinion.9

What is a document that contains the applicant's personal information?

A document is a single item which may be comprised of many page, eg a multiple page letter or report is a single document. If the applicant’s personal information appears on one of those pages then the document is a document that contains the applicant’s personal information. For example, a 40 page report which has the applicant’s name on page 39 is a document that contains the applicant’s personal information. The entire document must not be included in the disclosure log.

What should be included in the disclosure log?

As soon as practicable after a valid access application10 is made, the department must include the following information in its disclosure log:

  • details of the information being sought by the applicant, as stated in the application, and
  • the date the application was made.11

The department must not publish the applicant’s identity in the disclosure log at this stage. For information on determining who the applicant is, see appendix one of Noncompliant applications.

Departments publishing details of information being sought by the applicant must first review the information and delete information where required under section 78B (as outlined above).

Example

The application states:

I am seeking information about what action was taken about a complaint I made confidentially to my child John Smith’s teacher Mrs Bloggs regarding inappropriate conduct towards children including John….

The application includes information that must be deleted under section 78B. A summary of the information that can be published should be used on the disclosure log in such cases.

As soon as Practicable

What does practicable mean?

The Macquarie Dictionary defines 'practicable' as 'capable of being done' especially with the available means or with reason or prudence ie it is feasible to be done. Whether something is practicable or not will be determined having regard to all the circumstances.

The legislation and Ministerial Guidelines don't provide specific timeframes so the department must ensure that processes are in place to ensure that the required information is included in the  disclosure log as soon as practicable.

What ‘as soon as practicable’ means must be considered on a case by case basis and may vary between applications.

Transferred applications

If an application is transferred in full to another agency, the first agency has no disclosure log obligations in relation to the application. This is because section 38(3) of the RTI Act states that an application transferred in full is taken to have been made to the second agency. The second agency is responsible for meeting relevant disclosure log obligations.

Amended applications

Section 78 only requires the department to put the details about the applicant’s initial valid application on the disclosure log.  The department is not required to change the information on the disclosure log if the applicant later amends or reduces the scope of their application.

However, the RTI Act does not prevent the department from noting any amendments to the scope of the application on the disclosure log, as long as doing so does not require the publication of information prohibited by section 78B or the privacy principles in the IP Act.

Obligations when the applicant accesses the documents

Once the department gives the applicant access to a document that does not contain the applicant’s personal information, and the applicant accesses it, the department must publish the following on the disclosure log as soon as practicable12 after the applicant  accesses the document:

  • a copy of the document;
  • the applicant’s name; and
  • if the application states that access to the document was sought by the applicant for the benefit or use of another entity, the name of that entity.13

Additional information may need to be redacted from a document after it has been released to the applicant in order to make the information suitable for inclusion in a disclosure log in accordance with section 78B and the Ministerial Guidelines.  Otherwise, a document must be published to the disclosure log in the same form in which it was released.

When has the applicant had access?

The applicant has the right to access the documents within 40 business days after the date of the decision to give access or after any additional period allowed by the agency.14 The applicant must be any applicable processing and/or access charges prior to access being given. The RTI Act allows an agency to give access by providing the applicant with a copy of the documents. If the documents are:

  • Sent by email15—the documents are generally accessed when the email is received by the applicant’s information system.16 If you use a delivery receipt or the email does not bounce back as undeliverable that should confirm the email was received.
  • Collected by the applicant or their agent from your office—the applicant will have accessed them on the day they are collected.
  • Sent by post—the applicant is deemed to have accessed the document at the time in which the letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post17.  Australia Post provides information about standard delivery times on its website.18

Access given on review

If a department decides to give access to a document on internal review and the applicant accesses the document within the access period section 78(3) requires the document to be placed on the disclosure log.19

The department is not required to put a document on the disclosure log if an applicant is given access to a document as a result of a decision of, or as part of informal resolution conducted by, the Information Commissioner.  The department may choose to do so, as long as it does not contain the applicant’s personal information or information of a kind listed in section 78B.

Documents should not be published on a disclosure log if third parties have review rights until such review rights have been exhausted.

If documents are not accessed by the applicant within the access period

If a department decides to give access to a document that does not include the personal information of the applicant, but the applicant does not access the document within the access period, the department must include the following in the disclosure log, as soon as practicable after the access period ends:

  • details identifying the document;
  • information about how the document may be accessed; and
  • any applicable charges.20

Any person who then pays the appropriate charges can access that document.  The document can then be included in the disclosure log, subject to the requirements of section 78B.21 No further fees for that document can be charged if a person seeks access via the disclosure log.

Notice to applicant about disclosure log

Section 54 of the RTI Act requires an agency to give a ‘prescribed written notice’ of its decision on an access application.

As part of its prescribed written notice to the applicant, the department must advise that, if the document does not contain the applicant’s personal information, the document is required by section 78 of the RTI Act to be published on the disclosure log, except where specific information is required to be deleted under section 78B.

The prescribed written notice should explain how publication may occur both if the applicant accesses the document within the access period22 and if the applicant fails to access the document within the access period.23

Context of application

As a matter of best practice, a disclosure log should briefly explain the nature and context of an application, as well as any corresponding documents, background information and other relevant issues.  This is particularly useful for controversial and high profile applications, for statistical or raw data information, or where information may quickly become out of date.

Providing a clear and concise summary of the main content of documents released under RTI also enhances readers’ understanding of the request and the responsive documents. New explanatory information must be clearly differentiated from the disclosed documents.

Complying with the Ministerial Guidelines

The Ministerial Guidelines set out requirements which agency disclosure logs are required to follow.  In addition to outlining the RTI Act provisions about disclosure logs, they also provide guidance on a number of practical aspects of disclosure logs.

Removing information from the Disclosure Log

Documents released to the applicant and made available on the disclosure log can be removed from the disclosure log after six months24. This does not apply to the application details, which must remain on the disclosure log even after the documents are removed.

However, under the General Retention and Disposal Schedule issued by Queensland State Archives25, RTI application documents have a set retention period. Once RTI application documents are legitimately disposed of under a Retention and Disposal Schedule, the application details can be removed from the disclosure log.

  • 1 https://www.oic.qld.gov.au/guidelines/for-government/access-and-amendment/disclosure-logs
  • 2 published by the Ministerunder section 78B(1) of theRTI Act and available at www.rti.qld.gov.au
  • 3 In this Guideline, references to a department include a Minister, unless otherwise specified.
  • 4 These are discussed further in this guideline.
  • 5 Guidance regarding whether information was communicated in confidence is provided in the context of the breach of confidence exemption within the RTI Act see the Guideline Breach of confidence.
  • 6 This provision goes further than the exempt information provision under section 8 of schedule 3 of the RTI Act, which is limited to equitable confidentiality and does not include contractual confidentiality. For further information about the exempt information provision, see the Guideline Breach of confidence.
  • 7 See section 78B(2) of the RTI Act.
  • 8 Section 78(3) of the RTI Act.
  • 9 Section 12 of the IP Act
  • 10 For further information about validity of applications, see the Guideline Noncompliant applications.
  • 11 Section 78(2) of the RTI Act.
  • 12 This phrase is discussed earlier in this guideline.
  • 13 Section 78(3) of the RTI Act.
  • 14 Section 69 of the RTI Act.
  • 15 This also applies to documents sent by facsimile.
  • 16 Section 24, Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001.
  • 17 Section 39A Acts Interpretation Act 1951
  • 18 https://auspost.com.au/
  • 19 As long as it does not contain the personal information of the applicant and subject to the limitations in section 78B of the RTI Act.
  • 20 Section 78(4) of the RTI Act.
  • 21 Section 78A(4) of the RTI Act.
  • 22 Section 54(2)(a)(iii) of the RTI Act.
  • 23 Section 54(2)(a)(iv) of the RTI Act.
  • 24 As set out in the Ministerial Guidelines.
  • 25 https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/schedules/general-retention-and-disposal-schedule-grds

Current as at: August 14, 2018