The audit examined the extent to which the 11 Victorian public
sector (VPS) departments and Victoria Police meet the requirements
of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Freedom of Information (FOI) is a cornerstone of a thriving
Since FOI legislation was introduced 30 years ago, Victoria has
gone from being at the forefront of FOI law and administration to
one of the least progressive jurisdictions in Australia. Over time,
apathy and resistance to scrutiny have adversely affected the
operation of the Act, restricting the amount of information being
released. As a result, agencies are not meeting the object of the
Act, which is ‘to extend as far as possible the right of the
community to access information’.
The public’s right to timely, comprehensive and accurate
information is consequently being frustrated. The VPS’s systemic
failure to support this right is a failure to deliver Parliament’s
The prevailing culture and lack of transparent processes allow
principal officers—secretaries and chief executive officers of
agencies—to avoid fulfilling their responsibilities. Principal
officers are not being held to account for their agency’s
underperformance and non-compliance. Agencies are routinely
disregarding the 45- day statutory time limit for processing
requests and the five-day ministerial noting period, and there are
serious flaws in record keeping practices and FOI searches in the
Department of Human Services and Victoria Police.
The Department of Justice has not satisfactorily fulfilled its
role as lead agency for FOI. More effective leadership is required
to promote an appropriate culture, improve transparency of
government information and adequately inform Parliament and the
community about FOI.