Human Services in secret? Full FOI disclosures halve

The Commonwealth’s Department of Human Services is releasing much less information than it used to. A new report identifies “negative trends” in FOI disclosure.

Full freedom of information disclosures at the Department of Human Services have halved over the past three years, according to research released by the Australian Information Commissioner Professor John McMillan.

The report, released on Wednesday, follows an own-motion investigation. It identifies “negative trends” in DHS processing of FOI requests between 2011-12 and 2013-14.

During that period, the department increased its use of the “practical refusal” mechanism in the FOI Act from 33 to 777 occasions. There was also a decline in the number of FOI requests to which access to documents was given in full, from 58% to 26% of requests.

And the report identified an increase in the number of applications for Information Commissioner review of the department’s access refusal decisions, from 49 IC review applications in 2011–12 to 95 in 2013–14.

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