Right to Information Policy

Policy Corporate Governance Right to Information Policy

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Intent

To specify the right to access information and documents containing non-personal information held by the University.

Scope

All University staff, students and members of the public.

Definitions

RTI ActRight to Information Act (Qld) 2009

IP ActInformation Privacy Act (Qld) 2009

Document - The Queensland Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) defines a document as "a document, other than a document to which the RTI Act does not apply, in the possession, or under the control, of the University whether brought into existence or received in the University, and includes –

(a) a document to which the University is entitled to access and

(b) a document in the possession, or under the control, of an officer of the University in the officer’s official capacity."

Documents may be in hard copy or electronic format and include files, reports, emails, correspondence, computer printouts, maps, plans, photographs, and audio and video recordings.

Administrative release - refers to access to information, in full or in part, in certain types of administrative or operational records. Such records are generally released as a matter of course, in response to a request, without the need for a formal application under legislative authority such as the RTI and IP Acts.

Policy and Procedures

Background

The  Queensland Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) provides the public with a legally enforceable right to seek access to information and documents containing non-personal information held by the University unless access would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest. James Cook University is defined as a public authority under the RTI Act and is therefore subject to the requirements of the Act.

Requests by individuals for their own personal information are dealt with under the terms of the Queensland Information Privacy Act 2009 and as outlined in the JCU Information Privacy Policy.

Access to Information

JCU is committed to an open environment which enables the general public, students and staff to access University documents that do not contain personal information without the need to make a formal RTI request. Therefore, in certain circumstances the University may decide to make an administrative release rather than requiring lodgement of a formal application form.

The University is required to publish a Publication Scheme, which sets out the information it intends to publish under seven categories or classes, and a Disclosure Log listing information that has been made available in response to requests for information made under the RTI Act. Under the Act, the University is entitled to refuse access to documents which are already available, for instance in a public library, or are able to be purchased from the University through existing arrangements.

Access to information or documents is provided under the terms of the RTI Act, except for those documents that are available through the University’s website, in the Publication Scheme, or readily available elsewhere or available for sale,. The Act provides that access to certain documents or to certain information contained in documents may be refused in order to protect public interests or the private or business affairs of others.  A request to obtain access to documents which contain information about the private affairs of others will usually be refused.  Under Part 4 of the RTI Act, the University is entitled to refuse to deal with requests that would have an effect on its functions by substantially and unreasonably diverting its resources from their use in the performance of its functions.

If a request to obtain access is refused, the University will give specific written reasons for the decision and advise the applicant of their rights to appeal against the decision.

Making Requests

An RTI request must be made using the appropriate form. An applicant should obtain an application form from the Right to Information webpage and email it to gsu@jcu.edu.au (marked FAO RTI Decision Maker) or send the application to:

The RTI Decision Maker

Governance & Corporate Services Office

James Cook University

Townsville Qld 4811.

Charges

An application fee of $40.50 is payable for all requests under the RTI Act.  There may also be additional charges for time spent processing the application and for copies of documents or other services. Any charges payable will be set out in a Charges Estimate Notice (CEN) in accordance with the Act.  Where hardship can be demonstrated these fees may be waived.  There is no charge for an administrative release of information.

Response to requests for access

The Decision Maker has a duty to assist an applicant to make an application which is compliant with the requirements of the RTI Act.

The University is required to acknowledge receipt of the request within 10 business days, to consult with the applicant regarding any difficulties in dealing with the request and either grant access to the documents or provide specific written reasons for refusing access within 25 business days. This may be extended by a further 10 business days if consultation with a third party is required.

If inspection only of documents has been requested or if the publication scheme states that inspection of documents is the means by which certain information can be accessed, the applicant will be provided with reading facilities. At the applicant's request, the University will provide a copy of the documents, where possible, in the format requested.

Processing Requests

The Deputy Director, Governance Support and Corporate Information is responsible for making decisions regarding release of documents within the time periods as set out in the RTI Act.  The Deputy Director, Governance Support and Corporate Information (or nominee) will liaise with applicants, prospective applicants and University officers and staff responsible for record keeping in the areas relevant to the information request regarding access to documents.

Such officers and staff are responsible for locating information held in their areas. Declarations will be required by such officers and staff, at the time records are provided, attesting to the thoroughness of their search and that electronic or hard copies of all documents identified have been provided.  If information cannot be located, a written explanation of what action was taken to locate the information will be provided to the Senior Records Coordinator.

Decision Making

The Vice-Chancellor is defined as the “principal officer” under the RTI Act. The Vice-Chancellor has delegated the responsibility for determining the outcome of RTI applications to the Deputy Director, Governance Support and Corporate Information.

The Director, Governance Services and University Secretary, as Internal Review Officer, is responsible for the internal review of decisions made by the Deputy Director, Governance Support and Corporate Information, if requested by the applicant.

Appeal

The RTI Act gives applicants a legally enforceable right to appeal against a refusal by the University to grant full or partial access to information or a document.

Internal Review

If the decision on an RTI request was made by a University officer other than the Vice-Chancellor, an applicant may request the University to reconsider its decision. An applicant may however apply directly for external review without first seeking internal review.

An application for internal review must be made in writing within twenty business days after the date of the written notification of the decision, stating reasons for seeking amendment of the decision or identifying particular aspects of the decision which are of concern, and must be lodged with:

The RTI Internal Reviewer

Governance & Corporate Services Office

James Cook University

Townsville Qld 4811.

A fresh decision will be made as soon as practicable, but no longer than twenty business days after the application is received, by the RTI Internal Reviewer. Reasons will be given if the appeal against the original decision is not upheld. Applicants will also be advised of their rights to seek external review.  Where the Internal Review Officer fails to make a decision within the prescribed timeline, it will be deemed that they have made a decision re-affirming the original decision.

External Review

The Information Commissioner is independent of the University and is responsible for reviewing the RTI decisions of all agencies.

An application to the Commissioner for external review may be made if:

  • the request was decided originally by the Vice-Chancellor;

  • an applicant is dissatisfied with the outcome of an internal review; or

  • the Internal Review Officer fails to make a decision within the prescribed timeline.

An application for external review must be made in writing within twenty business days of the notification of the decision or outcome of internal review.

Further information and contacts are available on the Corporate Information webpage.

Related documents, legislation or JCU Statutes

Information Privacy Act 2009

Right to Information Act 2009

Privacy and Right to Information Guidelines

Fact Sheet Privacy and Right to Information

Records Management Policy

Records Management Framework

Procedures for Dealing with an Information Request

Approval Details

Policy sponsor:

Vice Chancellor

Approval authority:

Council

Version no:

15-1

Date for next review:

29/11/2015

Modification History

Version no.

Approval date

Implementation date

Details

15-1

09/10/2015

10/09/2015

Policy sponsor and approval authority amended to reflect Council approved Policy and delegations Framework

13-1

25/06/2013

25/06/2013

Minor amendments – application fee increase from $38 to $40.50; further amendments to reflect changes in job title (from Manger to Deputy Director) and the fact that Information Privacy is dealt with solely by the Governance Support Unit.

10-1

29/11/2010

30/11/2010