This guideline only applies to local governments, universities, statutory authorities and other agencies which are not departments or Ministers. Departments and Ministers must refer to the guideline Departments and Ministers - disclosure logs.1
What is a disclosure log?
Disclosure logs are part of an agency's website that contains documents—or information about how to get copies of them—that have been released under a Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) application. Once the application is finalised and the applicant has accessed the documents, the documents may be uploaded to the disclosure log, subject to some exceptions.
This is intended to prevent the need for multiple applications on the same subject, by giving the community access to documents released under RTI, and increase the flow of information to the community.
When disclosure logs are well designed, individuals can access published information easily, quickly and freely, and only need to apply under the RTI Act as a last resort. This can save money and effort for agencies and the community. Disclosure logs also need to be current, complete and accurate to be effective.
The RTI Act and the Ministerial Guidelines
Section 78A and section 78B of the RTI Act set the rules for agency disclosure logs. These sections of the RTI Act operate in conjunction with the Ministerial Guidelines: Operation of Publication Schemes and Disclosure Logs,2 which provide practical guidance on disclosure logs.
OIC’s audit of departmental disclosure logs
The Office of the Information Commissioner audited departmental disclosure logs and in 2020 made several recommendations.3 Many of these recommendations apply to other agency disclosure logs, including that disclosure logs should be easy to find, easy to use, up-to-date, and useful. They should be readily locatable on websites, and integrate browse, search and/or filter functions. Information should be published promptly and be kept complete and accurate.
Section 78B – information that must not be included in a disclosure log
Section 78B(2) of the RTI Act requires an agency to remove any information (including an individual's name) from material intended for publication on the disclosure log 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;4 or
- that is protected from disclosure under a contract;5 or
- would cause substantial harm to an entity if it was included in the disclosure log6.
Access by inspection
If access is given by inspection, the documents, depending on why access was given that way, may not be publishable to the disclosure log.
- If access by inspection was given due to a third party's copyright,7 it will not be appropriate to place the documents on the disclosure log and section 78B(2)(e) will apply.
- If the applicant agreed to inspect only access because, for example, it reduced the impact on third party privacy or removed a third party's objection, it may not be appropriate to place the documents on the disclosure log. Departments should consider the provisions of section 78B(2).
- If access was by way of inspection due to fragility of the documents or because other inspection would impact the resources of the agency,8 it may be appropriate to consider section 78B(2)(e).
Where documents intended for the disclosure log contain this kind of information, 78B(2) requires agencies to remove it before publishing or to not publish it. However, good recordkeeping is an important part of complying with section 78B(2). Agencies need to ensure that they record their reasons for not publishing documents on the disclosure log or for redacting information.
Where applications regularly result in the same kinds of redactions/non-publication under section 78B(2), it may be more efficient to develop a pre-publication checklist, identifying the common kinds of information that need to be removed.
Although not a legislative requirement, agencies are more open and transparent when they note on their disclosure logs the reasons for not publishing documents they have released to applicants.
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 made up of multiple pages, eg a multiple page letter or report is a single document. If the applicant’s personal information appears on one of those pages then that 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 documents may be included in the disclosure log?
Documents accessed by the applicant within the access period
- an agency has decided to give access to in response to a formal application under the RTI Act
- do not include personal information of the applicant; and
- were accessed by the applicant within the access period,10 including payment of any applicable processing and access charges11
may be included in an agency’s disclosure log, if reasonably practicable.
If it is not reasonably practicable to include the document itself (because, for example, the electronic version of the document is too large to be published on the agency’s website) then the agency may include details identifying the document and information about how that document can be accessed.
When has the applicant had access?
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 email12—the documents are generally accessed when the email is received by the applicant’s information system.13 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 post.14 Australia Post provides information about standard delivery times on its website.
- Inspected—the applicant has generally accessed them when they have completed their inspection.
Remember that where access to documents is deferred due to third party review rights, those documents cannot be placed on the disclosure log until access is no longer deferred.
Access given on review
If an agency decides to give access to a document on internal review and the applicant accesses the document within the access period section 78A(1) allows the document to be placed on the disclosure log.15
If an applicant is given access to a document as a result of external review to the Information Commissioner, agencies do not need to consider putting it on the disclosure log. This applies for both access given by way of early resolution and formal decision. Agencies may choose to do so, as long as the document does not contain the applicant’s personal information or information of a kind listed in section 78B(2).
If documents are not accessed by the applicant within the access period
If an agency 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 agency may include the following in the disclosure log:
- details identifying the document
- information about how the document may be accessed; and
- any applicable charges.16
Any person who 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.17 No further fees for that document can be charged if a person seeks access via the disclosure log.
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 months.18 This does not apply to the application details, which must remain on the disclosure log even after the documents are removed. An electronic copy of the documents should continue to be available for as long as the original file for the application is required to be kept.
Under the General Retention and Disposal Schedule issued by Queensland State Archives,19 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/disclosure-logs
- 2 Published by the Ministerunder section 78B(1) of theRTI Act and available at www.rti.qld.gov.au
- 3 Read the entire report here: https://www.oic.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/43653/Disclosure-Log-Audit-report-FINAL.pdf.
- 4 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.
- 5 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.
- 6 See section 78B(2) of the RTI Act.
- 7 Section 68(4)(c) of the RTI Act.
- 8 Section 68(4)(a) and (b).
- 9 Section 12 of the IP Act
- 10 See section 69 of the RTI Act for a definition of access period.
- 11 See section 78A of the RTI Act.
- 12 This also applies to documents sent by facsimile.
- 13 Section 24, Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001.
- 14 Section 39A Acts Interpretation Act 1951
- 15 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.
- 16 Section 78(4) of the RTI Act.
- 17 Section 78A(4) of the RTI Act.
- 18 As set out in the Ministerial Guidelines. Documents on disclosure logs are copies of documents held elsewhere by agencies, and disclosure log publication impacts on available web capacity.
- 19 https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/schedules/general-retention-and-disposal-schedule-grds
Current as at: April 8, 2022