Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information Act 1992 Qld (the FOI Act) in Queensland is designed to "extend as far as possible the right of the community to have access to information held by government" (section 4 of the FOI Act). This serves the public interest in two important ways:
- providing a public right of access to information makes government more open and accountable, and citizens are better able to participate in it; and
- individual citizens are able to access information held by government about their personal affairs, and can take steps to ensure that such information is accurate and up-to-date.
Subject to exceptions provided for in the FOI Act, every person has a legally enforceable right to be given access to documents of an agency or an official document of a Minister. They also have the right to apply for amendment of documents concerning their personal affairs, if they believe information in those documents is incomplete, out-of-date, inaccurate or misleading.
Agencies covered by the Queensland Act include:
- Local governments
- State government Departments
- Statutory authorities such as Boards and Commissions
- Corporatised bodies such as QRail and electricity authorities (but only for certain types of documents)
"Document" has a very wide meaning, and includes paper documents, diaries, records held on computer, tapes, videos, CDs, computer disks, microfilm/microfiche records, photographs, maps and plans.
It doesn't matter when the document was created (before or after the FOI Act came into operation). However, if there is no document held by an agency containing the information sought, the agency does not have to create one. Although the FOI Act refers to freedom of information, it only allows access to documents.