Right to Information
Right to Information (RTI)
What is the right to information?
Previously known as Freedom of Information (FOI), on 1 July 2009 the Freedom of Information Act 1992 was replaced by two pieces of legislation. These are the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI) and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP). The RTI deals with applications for non-personal information and IP deals with requests for personal information and amendments of personal information.
How can the RTI and IP Acts help?
The RTI and IP Acts have three main aims, which fall into the following categories:
- Availability - Council is required to make available to you documents about its functions and operations. This includes information about its decision-making processes, public participation through boards, councils or committees, and policy documents. You can download some of these documents, such as Council minutes, for free from Council's website. You can also ask to see such documents or purchase copies at Council's offices. Check our Publication Scheme to see if the documents you are seeking are already publicly available, or contact us to enquire as to whether documents can be made available under administrative access arrangements without requiring an RTI application.
- Access - The RTI and IP Act give you the right to apply for documents, including those about you, held by Council. You can examine and have copies of these documents. You also have rights of appeal if Council does not give you access to documents you want to see.
- Amendment - You can apply to have documents concerning your personal information changed if you believe it is inaccurate, incomplete, out-of-date or misleading.
What is a 'document' under RTI and IP?
For the purposes of RTI and IP, the term 'document' includes files, computer printouts, maps, plans, photographs, tape recordings, films or videotapes and other means of storing information, no matter how old or recent.
Where do I find information?
Many documents are already publicly available on the Council website and can be found through our Publication Scheme. Documents already released via the RTI process are contained within our Disclosure Log below.
RTI Disclosure Log
In accordance with Section 78A of the Right to Information Act 2009, Council maintains an RTI disclosure log which contains details of documents released under the RTI process where the document does not contain personal information of the applicant, and the applicant has accessed the document within the access period.
What are 'personal information' documents?
Personal information documents include information on any matter of personal or private concern to an individual such as medical records, family or domestic relationships, income, assets and financial records.
When you want to see documents containing information about your own personal information, you will have to show proof of identity.
How much will it cost?
The fees relating to right to information and information privacy applications are set by the State Government and are listed here. Please be aware that:
- The online application referenced on the linked page is for State Government departments only.
- Council do not accept payment by credit card unless it is in person at Council’s customer service centres.
- Payments by cheque can be made to Somerset Regional Council.
Before making an application, it is recommended that you:
- Review the information below under the heading ‘Can I see all documents?’, and
- Contact Council to discuss the information you want to access.
You can then make an informed decision about whether you will receive the information and if it is worth paying the application fee (if applicable). Please remember that complainant details (name, address, etc.) are generally not released.
The RTI and IP Acts require that your application be made in writing. The application form can be accessed here.
Can I see all documents?
Before making an application, it is recommended that you contact Council to discuss the information you want to access. Some documents are exempt from release as it would be contrary to the public interest, or the personal or business information of others. Sometimes part of a document may not be available if it contains information which is exempt (e.g. name and address of complainant/s).
If you are refused access to a document or given partial access only, Council must give you written reasons for the decision. Council must also tell you of your rights of appeal.
Documents already publicly available (including those available for a fee) under other legislation or administrative processes, are not available through the RTI or IP application process.
In relation to timeframes, the period specified in s18 of the Right to Information Act 2009 is applicable. Section 18 specifies that the processing period is a period of 25 business days from the day the application is received by the agency, however an additional 10 business days is required if the application involves consultation with a relevant third party under section 37 of the Act. The agency may also, under s18(2)(b) request a further specified period during which the agency may continue to consider the application.
These timeframes relate to the processing of the application, and the decision making as to what documents will be made available. When you would get access to the actual documents will depend on the exercise of any appeal right by yourself, or a third party, in respect of this decision. The appeal period is an additional 20 business days, after the decision is made.
Can other people apply for documents about me?
Most documents concerning your personal information will be exempt. However, if the document is not exempt, Council will contact you if it believes the disclosure would be of substantial concern to you.
If Council decides to release any information against your wishes Council must provide you with written reasons as well as your rights to appeal. No documents will be released until you have had the chance to appeal.
What if I'm not satisfied?
If you, or a relevant third party, are not satisfied with this decision (or any part of it) you can apply for internal review under Section 80 of the RTI Act. An application for internal review must be made to Council within 20 business days after the day on which you receive this decision. Your application can be lodged in person, by post or email to this office. The internal review will be undertaken by an officer more senior to the original decision-maker.
An internal review, also, gives us an opportunity to improve our services. Using the internal review option may give us the opportunity to consider additional information raised in the internal review application.
Alternatively, you may apply for external review by the Information Commissioner under Section 85 of the RTI Act. Information on how to make application for external review of an access or amendment decision can be found on the website of the Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland.
Application forms are available here.