Freedom of information
Under freedom of information (FOI) you have a right, with limited exceptions, to access documents we hold. An FOI request can take up to 30 days to process.
Most of the FOI team are helping with our response to the NSW floods disaster. We’ll do our best to meet normal timeframes but we may ask to extend your request by 30 days.
Access to documents
We make a range of documents available for public access. You can formally request access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) to documents we hold. Alternately, we can give you certain information if you request it through other access arrangements we have set up. They're outlined below.
Release of your own information
You can ask to see or get a copy of any personal information we hold about you. We can provide copies of some documents without the need for special requests. For instance, we can provide a copy of any of these:
- the application forms and other documents you submitted to us
- copies of letters already sent to you, such as decision letters
- your payment history information.
Use online accounts
You can get certain information, including personal information we hold about you immediately through your online account. This is a secure way for you to access some of your information. View, update and request some of the information we hold where and when it suits you.
Find out what you can do online using your:
You can view, update and request your Medicare information through your Medicare Online account.
Alternatively, to request Medicare information for an individual or a family member, complete the Request for Medicare claims information form.
For PBS information, complete the Request for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme claims information form. For a Medicare benefit tax statement (pre 1 July 2015), complete the Request for a Medicare benefit tax statement form.
Get documents or information about another person
We have a number of different arrangements in place for a third party to request personal information of a customer. The third party must have appropriate authority to receive information or documents about a customer. Read more about Personal Information releases for details and forms.
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives any person the right to do all of the following:
- access copies of documents we hold, except exempt documents
- ask for us to change or annotate your information if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading
- seek a review of our decision to deny you access to a document or not to amend your personal record.
You can ask to see any document that we hold. We can refuse access to some documents, or parts of documents that are exempt. Exempt documents may include:
- those relating to national security
- documents containing material obtained in confidence
- Cabinet documents
- other matters set out in the FOI Act.
Information we hold
Information Publication Scheme
As required by the FOI Act, we have an Information Publication Scheme entry that provides information on all of the following. Our:
- annual reports
- consultation arrangements
- information we routinely release following FOI requests
- information we routinely provide to Parliament.
FOI disclosure log
Our FOI disclosure log lists information we have released since 1 May 2011 in response to requests made under the FOI Act.
Types of requests
Requests for data
Access Statistical information and data that is publicly available.
There are also options to seek high level statistical data outside of FOI. Email the statistics team for more information and guidance on these processes. Before sending an email you should check if the information is available through statistical information and data.
Data requests are assessed on an individual basis and a fee may apply.
There may be requirements to seek clearance from other sources including other government departments to meet your request for data.
Freedom of information requests
We have processes in place to provide you with your personal information without the need for a Freedom of Information request, where this is appropriate to do so. If you complete the Freedom of Information - access or change documents form, you may be contacted to ask if you would like documents released through these processes instead of the FOI Act, where it is appropriate to do so.
Someone else making a request for you
You can ask someone else to make a request for you. If you nominate another person to act on your behalf, you must complete the authority included in the form.
How to make an FOI request
Submit your request
You can submit your request by post, email or at one of our offices. Your request must:
- be in writing
- state that the request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act
- provide information about the documents to assist us to process your request
- provide an address for reply.
If you ask a third party to make an FOI request on your behalf, you need to provide a specific, written authority to send copies of documents to you care of that person, or to allow that person to inspect copies of documents containing information about you. You can provide an authority for another person to have access to your information by signing the relevant section of the FOI Application form.
If you request documents about another person
To assist us in deciding if we can provide another person’s information to you, please provide evidence of your authority to ask for their information. You can ask them to sign an authority as part of the application form.
FOI Application form
An FOI request must be made in writing; however, it is not mandatory to submit a request using the FOI application form.
Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support programs:Freedom of Information
PO Box 7820
Canberra BC ACT 2610
Email: Freedom of information
Hearing AustraliaHearing Australia Hub
Level 5, 16 University Avenue
Macquarie University NSW 2109
CRS AustraliaServices Australia
PO Box 7820
Canberra BC ACT 2610
Email: Freedom of information
Fees and charges
There is no application fee for an FOI request.
There are no processing charges for requests for access to documents containing only personal information about you. However, processing charges may apply to other requests. The most common charges are:
|Search and retrieval - time we spend searching for or retrieving a document.||$15.00 per hour.|
|Decision making: time we spend in deciding to grant or refuse a request, including examining documents, consulting with other parties, and making deletions.||First 5 hours is nil
Subsequent hours are $20 per hour.
|Transcript - preparing a transcript from a sound recording, shorthand or similar medium.||$4.40 per page of transcript.|
|Photocopy.||$0.10 per page.|
|Inspection -supervision by an agency officer of your inspection of documents or hearing or viewing an audio or visual recording at our premises.||$6.25 per half hour or part thereof.|
|Delivery - posting or delivering a copy of a document at your request.||Cost of postage or delivery.|
If we decide to impose a charge, we will give you a written estimate and the basis of our calculation. Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, we may ask you to pay a deposit of $20, or where the estimated charge exceeds $100, we may ask you to pay a 25% deposit before we process your request.
You can ask for the charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. If you do so, you should explain your reasons and you may need to provide some evidence.
What you can expect from us
We will tell you within 14 days that we have received your request. We will also give you an estimate of the charges that apply to your request. We will give you our decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended. If a document contains information about a third party, we may need to consult them and extend the time to give you our decision by another 30 days to allow us to do so. We may also seek your agreement to extend the time by up to 30 days if your request is complex.
If you disagree with our decision
When we have made a decision about your FOI request, we will send you a letter explaining our decision and your review and appeal rights.
You can ask for the following decisions to be reviewed if we:
- refuse to give you access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access
- impose a charge
- refuse to change or annotate information about you that you claim is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.
A third party who disagrees with our decision to give you documents that contain information about them can also ask for our decision to be reviewed.
You can request in writing that we reconsider our decision through an internal review. An internal review will be conducted by another officer in our agency. We will advise you of our new decision within 30 days of receiving your request. Please send requests for internal reviews to the appropriate agency, FOI contact details as listed above.
Information Commissioner review
You can ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review our original decision or our decision on internal review within 60 days of the date of decision or 30 days after you are notified if you are an affected third party. The Information Commissioner can affirm or vary the decision or substitute a new decision. The Information Commissioner may decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances. Read more on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website.
If you do not agree with the way we have handled your request, you can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner who may investigate our actions. More information is available on the OAIC website. The Commonwealth Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about our actions. However, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner will consult to avoid the same matter being investigated twice.
Read more information related to Freedom of information on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website about:
Read more about the Freedom of Information Acts on the Comlaw website:
Page last updated: 5 January 2021
This information was printed 15 April 2021 from https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/organisations/about-us/access-information/freedom-information. It may not include all of the relevant information on this topic. Please consider any relevant site notices at https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/site-notices when using this material.