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    7.6 Right to Information

    The Right to Information Act 2009 (the RTI Act) gives the public a right of access to information held by government unless, on balance, providing access would be contrary to the public interest. The RTI Act replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1992 (the FOI Act) on 1 July 2009. It applies to Queensland Government departments, Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, local governments, certain Government Owned Corporations and public authorities. A “public authority” is defined1 as including:

    • an entity established for a public purpose by an Act or established under an Act for a public purpose, whether or not the public purpose is stated in the Act
    • an entity created by the Governor in Council or a Minister
    • another entity that is declared by regulation to be a public authority for the purposes of the RTI Act supported by government funds or other assistance or controlled by government or established under an Act or given public functions under an Act; or
    • a person holding an office established under an Act.

    Most Government Boards in Queensland are established for a public purpose by or under an Act. This means that under the RTI Act, members of the public have a right to access documents that these Government Boards have control or possession of. The Act states that “a board, council, subcommittee or other body established by government to help, or to perform functions connected with, an agency is not a separate agency, but is taken to be comprised within the agency”.2

    The RTI Act is based on a principle of maximum disclosure of non-personal information with a specified pro disclosure bias. It contains a reduced number of exemptions, compared to the repealed FOI Act. These exemptions apply in situations where Parliament has decided that there is an overriding public interest in not disclosing the information, for reasons relating to confidentiality, privacy or security. The RTI Act also sets out a new decision-making framework to guide agencies and Ministers in determining the public interest when dealing with applications for information.


    Members of the public can apply under the RTI Act for “documents of an agency”, including documents created before the Act commenced.

    “Document of an agency” means a document in the possession or control of an agency, including documents the agency is entitled to access and documents that an officer of the agency holds in their official capacity.3

    The definition of “document of an agency” is broad and would include files, working papers, hand written notes, minutes of meetings, work diaries, post-it notes, computer printouts, maps, films, photographs, tapes, video recordings and electronically recorded data. Drafts and copies of documents are also included. The definition may include documents held outside the agency, e.g. at a Government Board member's home.

    Applications and decisions

    The RTI Act sets out the procedural requirements for making and dealing with access applications. There is a whole-of-government approved form for applications under the RTI Act. The processing period for applications is 25 business days with extensions of time provided for in certain circumstances, such as if a third party needs to be consulted. An agency or Minister is required to give the applicant a schedule of relevant documents and a charges estimate notice before the end of the processing period.

    The fees and charges for access applications are prescribed under the Right to Information Regulation 2009 and include an application fee, processing charges based on the time taken to process the application and access charges for photocopying and other costs incurred by the agency. However, if an application takes less than five hours to process, no processing charge will be payable.4 Under the RTI Act, agencies and Ministers are obliged to minimise the charges payable by the applicant.5 Charges can be waived for concession card holders and non-profit organisations in financial hardship.6 No processing charge is payable under the RTI Act in relation to a document to the extent the document contains information that is personal information for the applicant.

    If an applicant is unhappy with the decision of an agency or Minister regarding his or her RTI application, in certain circumstances the applicant can apply for internal review (conducted by staff of the agency or Minister) or external review (conducted by the independent Office of the Information Commissioner). Internal review is not a prerequisite for external review.

    Each Government Board should have a designated officer responsible for handling RTI enquiries.

    The Queensland Government is committed to moving to a ‘push’ model, based on a greater proactive release of information, without the need to seek information through the RTI application process. These proactive mechanisms include publication schemes, disclosure logs and increased administrative release and access schemes.

    Publication Scheme

    All government departments have a web-based publication scheme to which information can be published outside the RTI application process. The Publication Schemes are designed to improve public accessibility and enable people to more accurately understand what types of documents government holds. Publication schemes set out the classes of information held by an agency that it routinely makes available to be public.

    Disclosure Log

    A disclosure log provides details of information that has been released in response to non-personal Right to Information requests. It contains a description of the information released and, where possible, a link to the relevant documents.

    Members should be aware that documents they or their board/committee produce may be published in a publication scheme or disclosure log.

    Learn more about Right to Information.

    1. Section 16 RTI Act
    2. Section 14(3) RTI Act
    3. Section 12 RTI Act
    4. Regulation 5 (1)(a) Right to Information Regulations 2009
    5. Section 59 RTI Act
    6. Section 66(2) RTI Act

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    Last updated:
    18 May, 2016
    Last reviewed:
    29 July, 2010