Right to information
On 1 July 2010 new right to information legislation came into effect, replacing the former freedom of information law.
The new law:
creates new rights to information that are designed to meet community expectations of more open and transparent government
encourages government agencies to proactively release government information.
You can find out more about your right to information and new ways to access NSW government information on the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) website.
In NSW, the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 now gives you the legal right to obtain access to information held by state government agencies, Ministers, local government agencies and other public bodies. You may also access information held by private companies on behalf of government agencies.
Under the right to information legislation, information may be accessed in four ways:
Mandatory proactive disclosure
Authorised proactive disclosure
Informal release of government information – government information may be available without the need for a formal application. Contact the Right to Information Officer (RIO) for more information.
Formal access applications – these are only required if the information you require is unavailable by other means. Information may already be available from:
OSR must also disclose instances when an application for access to government information has been refused.
Documents tabled in Parliament by OSR are also available on the NSW Parliament website.
All contracts that OSR enters into with the private sector which are valued over $150,000 must be recorded in the register of government contracts.
OSR maintains a record of major assets acquired during each financial year.
Note: there is no need to make an access application for your own personal information, unless that information also affects information belonging to third parties. Contact the RIO for more information.
How to make an application to OSR
Step 1. Decide exactly what information you need and who has it
If you are not sure what the document is called or what information you may need, contact us.
We cannot process access applications for information held by other Government agencies. We cannot give you access to information held by a local council or any other department of the NSW State Government. Requests should be made directly to the agency which holds the information being sought
Step 2. Check if the information is already available
Check the relevant websites to see whether the information you are seeking is available to the public. It may already be released, be contained in a publication such as an Annual Report, or be available through a Disclosure Log. In addition, you may be able to obtain non-personal and non-confidential information free on request.
If you are asking for access to your own correspondence with OSR, for example, it will be made available to you without a formal access application. If there are numerous letters dating back several years and you only want a small number of them, you can always make an appointment to come in and look at your file and select the ones you want.
If you are unsure if the information is available, contact us.
Step 3. Making a formal access application
Make your request on an Access Application Form and post or deliver it, together with the $30 application fee, to OSR at the address shown on the form. Please note that a formal access application is not valid unless it is accompanied by the required fee. An application is also invalid if it requests access to exempt information but we will try to negotiate a valid application with you.
Your rights under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009
Under the new right to information legislation, you must be given access to government information when you request it, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure. Agencies must apply a public interest test to determine whether there are public interest considerations against disclosure which, on balance, outweigh the public interest considerations in favour of disclosure. If an agency decides to refuse to provide access to government information, it must give its reasons for doing so.
Your access application must be determined within 20 working days of receipt. If this deadline is not met, you are entitled to a refund of your application fee and any processing charges you may have paid. The deadline may be extended by up to 10 more working days if consultation with a third party is required or documents need to be retrieved from archives. An applicant and an agency may also agree to an extension of time for processing an access application.
If the deadline for processing is not met, the access application is deemed to have been refused and review rights are automatically invoked.
Agencies are entitled to charge at the rate of $30 per hour for processing formal access applications and may make disclosure of information conditional on payment of the processing charge. The application fee of $30 counts as a payment toward any processing charge.
A 50% discount on processing charges must be given if an applicant holds a pensioner concession card, is a full-time student or is a non-profit organisation. A 50% discount may be given if an applicant is able to demonstrate that disclosure of the information being sought will be of special benefit to the public.
Rights of review
The right to information regime allows applicants extensive rights of review, either as an internal review by the agency or a review by the Information Commissioner and/or the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. An application for internal review will normally cost $40 and must be made within 20 working days of a decision being notified to an applicant. Applications for review to the Information Commissioner must be made within eight weeks of a decision being made.
For more information contact:
The Right to Information Officer