What does the RTI Act mean to me as a public sector employee?

Having access to government information allows members of the community to scrutinise, discuss and contribute to government decision making, and enhances the accountability of government.1 The Right to Information Act 20092 (RTI Act), the privacy principles,3 the Public Service Act 2008,4 and other sector and agency-specific legislation, policies, and standards create a framework for managing and giving access to government information.

This guideline is for public sector employees who do not work directly with the RTI Act. All public sector employees have a role in meeting their agency’s information management and access obligations so it is crucial that everyone understands the basics of administrative access, the RTI process, and what their role is when an RTI application arrives in their agency.

Know your agency’s approach to information access

The RTI Act promotes the administrative release of information wherever possible, with formal RTI applications as a last resort.

This means it is important to:

  • Know what arrangements your agency has for releasing information—both administratively and under other legislation. Are certain people authorised to release certain information?  What are you authorised to release?
  • If you are authorised to release information, you should do so as informally as possible, following your agency's policies and procedures, unless there is a good reason not to (for example, releasing it would result in a breach of the privacy principles or it would not be disclosed if applied for under the RTI Act).

Note

If you don't know whether you are authorised to release information, check with your Unit Manager or the agency’s RTI and IP Unit.5

  • Be familiar with your agency's publication scheme6—and with the kinds of information your agency holds, your agency's website and where information can be found on it; and how to contact the relevant parts of the agency responsible for different kinds of information.

Know the application process

You need to know what part of your agency is responsible for access applications made under the RTI Act.7 The RTI Act has strict time limits so it is important that you send all formal access applications to the RTI Unit as soon as possible after receipt. The RTI Unit is also where you will direct requests for information that can't be dealt with informally.

If someone asks how to make a formal access application, you can direct them to:

Know your recordkeeping obligations

Under the RTI Act, people have the right to apply for documents in the possession or control of an agency or Minister, without giving a reason for applying. ‘Document’ means more than pieces of paper; it includes anything with information on it, such as electronic files, Post-It notes, video and audio recordings, work diaries, text messages and emails.

Obligations under the RTI Act intersect with the Public Records Act 2002 (Qld), and that means it's important to keep up-to-date and accurate records. This allows information applied for under the RTI Act to be easily identified and located.

Note

The obligations in the Public Records Act 2002 (Qld) apply to public records which is a narrower category than documents under the RTI Act. It is important to remember that records must be retained and can only be disposed of in accordance with an approved retention and disposal schedule.

Know your role in the RTI process

When processing access applications, your agency's RTI decision maker may ask you to send them documents. It is important that you send them complete copies of all relevant documents including work-related documents kept in personal filing systems, on personal electronic devices, or in private email accounts. These should be sent to the decision maker as quickly as possible as they are working under very strict timeframes.

Providing documents to the decision maker does not mean they will automatically be released; the decision maker must consider every document and apply the provisions of the RTI Act as part of making their decision. If you have concerns about the documents or information being released, it is important to tell the decision maker about them. This will enable the decision maker to take them into account when making their decision.

Note

If a decision maker does not receive all relevant documents, an applicant can take the matter on review to the Office of the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner has a broad range of powers under the RTI Act including requiring agency officers to conduct further searches, produce documents, and appear before the Information Commissioner.

More information

For information about how the RTI Act operates within your agency please contact your agency’s RTI Unit.  If you have any general queries regarding the operation of the legislation contact the OIC Enquiries Service on 07 3234 7373.

  • 1 Preamble to the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld).
  • 2 And equivalent provisions regarding access to information contained in the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld).
  • 3 Which include the contracted service provider provisions contained in the IP Act.
  • 4 Section 9 of the Public Service Act 2008 (Qld) sets out that a person is a Public Service Employee if they are employed under that Act as a Public Service Officer, a general employee or a temporary employee.  Section 8 provides that a Public Service Officer is a chief executive, a senior executive or an officer of another type.
  • 5 Your agency’s RTI and Privacy officers may be able to assist you in considering whether information would raise information privacy issues if released or if it would not generally be disclosed under the RTI process.
  • 6 A publication scheme is available on the agency’s website and sets out the types of agency documents that are publicly available including financial information and information about the agency’s services, decisions, policies and priorities.
  • 7 For the purposes of the Guideline, this unit is referred to as the RTI Unit.
  • 8 The Office of the Information Commissioner Enquiries Service provides general assistance about how the RTI and IP legislation operates; contact details are listed below.<www.oic.qld.gov.au>

Current as at: June 16, 2021