FOI delays outside the statutory 30-day period have doubled in the past 10 years, according to new research by the Centre for Public Integrity.

As well as systemic delays, the research finds that FOI refusals have increased 50%, while requests granted in full have fallen 30%.

The research finds:

  • FOI requests responded to outside the statutory 30-day period have increased from 11.5 per cent in 2011-12 to 22.5 per cent in 2021-22.
  • FOI requests over 90 days late have increased over 10-fold, from 1.3 per cent in 2011 to 12.4 per cent in 2021.
  • The percentage of FOI requests refused completely has increased 52 per cent from 11.5 per cent in 2011-12 to 17.7 per cent in 2020-21. 
  • The percentage of FOI requests granted in full has fallen 30 per cent from 59.1 per cent in 2011-12 to 41.1 per cent in 2020-21. 

Bret Walker SC, one of the country’s leading barristers, said “Without knowing about what government is doing, the idea of democracy is defeated.”

“The desire for secrecy has gone way beyond acceptable limits on the part of governments in this country. The supposed benefits of freedom of information legislation have nearly been destroyed by recalcitrant administrators and counterproductive exemptions,” said Mr Walker.

“The public has a right to know information pertaining to public administration,” said Geoffrey Watson SC, a director of the Centre for Public Integrity.

“FOI is an important aspect of our democracy. Without transparency of information, a culture of secrecy and corruption can flourish,” said Mr Watson

“The system is broken. Delays and refusals to give information are on the rise, leaving the public in the dark about important government business. We need to increase staffing and resourcing of the Information Commissioner, and implement sanctions against officers in contempt of the FOI Act,” said Mr Watson.

Read the paper in full here