Disclosure logs - agencies other than departments

This guideline only applies to agencies that are 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 All agencies should read the relevant OIC guideline in conjunction with the Ministerial Guidelines: Operation of Publication Schemes and Disclosure Logs2, with which agencies 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 78A of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) provides that an agency may include copies of documents released under the RTI Act in its disclosure log if the documents do not contain personal information of the applicant.3 The inclusion of documents is subject to some additional limitations which are discussed in this Guideline.

What is a disclosure log?

An agency’s disclosure log is a web page or a document that publishes a list of documents that an agency has already released under the RTI Act.4 Disclosure logs are a  form of proactive disclosure of information promoted under the RTI Act. They are intended to make documents that have already been released under the RTI Act available to the public, because if one person was interested 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 published in the disclosure log. Section 78B of the RTI Act requires an agency 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.

The applicant's name and any documents that contain 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 opinion9.

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

Documents which:

  • 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 period10, 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.

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 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 system13. 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 post14.  Australia Post provides information about standard delivery times on its website.

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 then section 78A allows the document to be placed on the disclosure log.15

Documents should not be published on a disclosure log until all review rights of third parties have been exhausted.

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

The applicant has 40 business days after the date of the decision to access the documents.16 The applicant must pay any applicable processing and/or access charges prior to access being given.

If the document does not contain the applicant's personal information, and the applicant does not access the document within the access period, the agency may include in its disclosure log:

  • details identifying the document;
  • information about how the document may be accessed; and
  • any applicable charges.17

Anyone who pays the appropriate charges can access that document, which can then be included in the disclosure log, subject to the requirements of section 78B.18 No further fees for that document can be charged if a person seeks access via the disclosure log.19

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 agency must advise that, if the document does not contain the applicant’s personal information, the document may be published on the agency’s disclosure log, except specific information that 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 period20 and if the applicant fails to access the document within the access period.21

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 comply with. 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 months22. 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 Archives23, 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 www.rti.qld.gov.au
  • 3 Section 78A(1) of the RTI Act.
  • 4 Subject to the exclusions in section 78B of the RTI Act and documents containing the applicant's personal information.
  • 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 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 69 of the RTI Act.
  • 17 Section 78A(4) of the RTI Act.
  • 18 Section 78A(4) of the RTI Act.
  • 19 Section 78A(5) of the RTI Act.
  • 20 Section 54(2)(a)(iii) of the RTI Act.
  • 21 Section 54(2)(a)(iv) of the RTI Act.
  • 22 As set out in the Ministerial Guidelines.
  • 23 https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/schedules/general-retention-and-disposal-schedule-grds

Current as at: August 14, 2018