The Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act) give people a right to access documents from government agencies1. The RTI Act requires payment of an application fee, processing charges and access charges2 and the IP Act requires payment of access charges3.
All fees and charges under the RTI and IP Acts are GST exempt.4
The application fee5 must be paid for an RTI application to be valid.6 There is no application fee for IP Act applications.
If the fee is not paid with the application, the agency must contact the applicant and give them a reasonable opportunity to pay the application fee.7 If the applicant still does not pay the application fee, the agency must give them a prescribed written notice of its reviewable decision that the application is non-compliant.8
The application fee is $51.70.9
No. Section 24(2) of the RTI Act states that the application fee must accompany an application. Even if the applicant is eligible for a waiver of the processing and access charges on the grounds of financial hardship, there are no provisions in the RTI Act which allow for the application fee to be waived in any circumstances.
The RTI Act requires the application fee to be refunded in only two circumstances:
If agencies wish to refund the application fee in any other circumstances they can do so relying on their own financial delegations or policies.
The processing charge is the charge for the time an agency spends:
There are no processing charges for IP applications.
The processing charge16 is:
Where an RTI application includes documents that contain the applicant’s personal information an agency must not charge any processing charges for those documents.19
Depending on the ratio of personal information documents to non-personal documents, there may be various ways for an agency to calculate the processing charge. Whatever the method, the time spent on personal documents must not be included in the total charge.
In order to ensure the applicant is aware that the agency is not improperly charging the applicant, agencies may wish to consider noting on the Charges Estimate Notice that they have not included personal documents when calculating the charge.
If a document is not where an agency’s filing system indicates it should be, and an agency has to spend extra time trying to find it, the agency cannot charge the applicant for that time.20
For example, if an agency spends an additional two hours locating a document that was incorrectly filed, those additional two hours cannot be counted when calculating the processing time for the application.
Access charges are the cost of giving the applicant access to a document21, for example the cost of photocopies. They apply whether or not the document contains the applicant’s personal information.
The access charge for a document is the actual cost incurred by the agency for:
If an applicant is given access to a document as an A4-size black and white photocopy, the cost is $0.25 for each page.24 This is the only specific access cost in the RTI and IP Regulations.
There is no cost for providing access to a document in electronic form, such as by email or on a disc. These costs are specifically excluded from the access charge by both the RTI and IP Regulations.25
The processing and access charges may be waived if they are uneconomical to charge, and they must be waived if the applicant is in financial hardship.26
If an agency considers that the associated costs of receiving the processing and/or access charges would be higher than the charges themselves, it can waive the charges on the grounds that it is uneconomical to charge the applicant.27
Associated costs are the costs of:
Developing a policy setting out the maximum amount of processing and access charge that would be considered ‘uneconomical to charge’ will ensure a consistent approach within the agency.
Agencies must make a decision to waive the processing and access charges where:
For an individual applicant, the charges must be waived if:
The concession card must be one of the following:
A holder of a concession card is someone who is named on the concession card and is qualified to be named on the concession card at the time it is being relied on (including as a dependent).31 For further information about the accepted concession cards and waivers on the grounds of financial hardship for an individual see the Guideline: Applying for financial hardship as an individual.
Under the RTI Act, agencies have to issue the applicant with a charges estimate notice (CEN). A CEN is a written estimate of the total processing and access charges for the application. It has to be issued even if no charges are payable.32
There is no requirement to provide a CEN under the IP Act, so applicants are not given an estimate of any access charges. For more detailed information about CENs, see the Guideline: Schedule of relevant documents and charges estimate notice.
The final amount of the processing and/or access charges payable by the applicant must be included in the agency’s written notice of the access decision.33 This can be less, but cannot be more, than the agency’s estimate in the CEN.
The processing and/or access charges must be paid before the applicant is given access to documents.34
These charges must be paid even if access to the documents is refused, or the applicant does not access the documents within the access period.35
An applicant can seek a review of the decision to charge at all, for example if an agency refused to waive the charges on the grounds of financial hardship.37
Current as at: August 11, 2020