Freedom of Information Procedures and Information Publication Scheme

Agency plan

Introduction

Changes to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) that commence in 2010-11 include the establishment of an Information Publication Scheme. Agencies are required to publish a plan showing how they intend to comply with the Scheme.

The Scheme requires that agencies publish a range of information about what they do and the way it do it, as well as information dealt with or used in the course of their operations.

This document outlines the Productivity Commission's FOI procedures and describes how the Commission proposes to meet its obligations in respect of the Information Publication Scheme, to comply with Sections 8(1) and 8(2)(a) of the FOI Act.

Information required to be published under the IPS

Who we are

Section 8(2)(b) of the FOI Act requires that information be published of the structure of the agency's organisation. The Commission publishes an organisation structure on its website and in its Annual Reports.

Section 8(2)(d) requires that details of officers appointed under Acts be published (other than APS employees within the meaning of the Public Service Act 1999). Commissioners are appointed under the Productivity Commission Act 1998. The terms of currently appointed Commissioners, together with a brief summary of their background, are shown on the Commission's website. The Commission's Annual Reports include details of Commissioners who have departed during the year.

What we do

Section 8(2)(c) of the FOI Act requires that, as far as practicable, information be published on the details of the functions of the agency, including its decision-making powers and other powers affecting members of the public. Section 8(2)(j) requires agencies to publish their 'operational information' (information held by agencies to assist them to perform or exercise their functions or powers in making decisions or recommendations affecting members of the public).

The Productivity Commission is an advisory body. It does not administer government programs or exercise executive power. The Productivity Commission Act 1998 outlines the Commission's functions, powers and general policy guidelines. An external link to the legislation is included on the Commission's website.

The Commission publishes A Quick Guide to the Productivity Commission which includes a description of the Commission's core functions. The Commission's website includes information about its Role and Operating Principles and Policy Guidelines.

In making recommendations, the Commission publishes submissions received from the public, including transcripts of public hearings, and publishes a detailed report of findings and recommendations. This information is available on the Commission's website.

Our reports and responses to Parliament

Section 8(2)(e) of the FOI Act requires that information in annual reports that are laid before the Parliament be published. The Commission's Annual Reports are made available on its website after being tabled.

Section 8(2)(h) requires that information that is routinely provided to the Parliament in response to requests and orders from the Parliament be published. The Commission routinely publishes information provided to the Parliament in respect of Senate Orders relating to Contracts and Files.

Consultation

Section 8(2)(f) of the FOI Act requires agencies to publish details of arrangements for members of the public to comment on specific policy proposals for which the agency is responsible, including how (and to whom) those comments may be made.

The Commission is required under its Act to conduct public inquiries on matters referred to it by the Government and the Commission's inquiry procedures actively seek to encourage participation by all interested parties. People can register their interest in an inquiry by various means, including online, and can monitor other participants' reactions in submissions which are also posted on the Commission's website. Transcripts of public hearings are available online. In respect of its non-inquiry work, the Commission's procedures aim to promote transparency to the greatest extent possible.

A list of current projects is maintained on the Commission's website, including details of how to participate in the consultation process. Details of inquiry participation and consultation are given in each inquiry and commissioned research report. Submissions and Commission reports are included on the Commission's website. The Commission routinely issues a draft report as part of the public inquiry process, in order to facilitate consultation prior to a final report being issued.

The Commission periodically invites a range of government departments and agencies, peak employer bodies, unions, community and environmental groups and academics to consultations on the Commission's supporting research program. The Commission also meets with academics in various cities for the same purpose.

The Commission provides secretariat support for the cross-jurisdictional reporting on the performance of a range of government services, and the report Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage. This includes consultation with senior representatives from the Australian, State and Territory governments.

The procedures of the Australian Government Competitive Neutrality Complaints Office allow any individual, organisation or government body to consider and, if necessary, lodge a complaint in relation to the application of competitive neutrality policy.

Routinely requested information

Section 8(2)(g) of the FOI Act requires agencies to publish information in documents to which the agency routinely gives access in response to FOI requests.

The Productivity Commission does not routinely receive FOI requests. As described above, the Commission's role, and the processes by which consultation is undertaken, are such that information related to the Commission's core functions is publicly available without the need for a request under the FOI Act. For example, Commission reports, transcripts of public hearings, and submissions from the public to Commission inquiries, are made publicly available on the Commission's website.

Making a request for information

The Commission's publications are made available on its website www.pc.gov.au.

General requests for information about the Commission's publications do not need to be made under the FOI Act and can be directed to:

Media and Publications Section
Productivity Commission
Locked Bag 2, Collins Street East
Melbourne Vic 8003

Phone: 03 9653 2244
Email: maps@pc.gov.au

Section 8(2)(i) of the FOI Act requires details to be published of an officer (or officers) who can be contacted about access to the agency's information or documents under the Act, (i.e. that are not already publicly available). The contact details for the Commission are:

FOI Co-ordinator
Productivity Commission
Locked Bag 2, Collins Street East
Melbourne Vic 8003

Phone: 03 9653 2107
Email: foi@pc.gov.au

A request under the FOI Act for access to documents must:

  • be in writing
  • provide a physical or electronic address where we can send our decision
  • provide enough information for us to identify the documents
  • state that the request is under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

The Commission will provide an acknowledgment of receipt of an FOI request to the applicant within 14 days, as required by Section 15 (5)(a) of the FOI Act. In accordance with the Section 15(5)(b) of the Act, a decision must be notified to the applicant within 30 days of receipt. However, as some documents may be subject to a third party consultation process, the applicable timeframe may be extended by an additional 30 days in accordance with Section 15(6) of the Act. If consultation is required, the applicant will be informed accordingly.

Disclosure

The Commission will publish a disclosure log on its website of documents provided in response to FOI requests, in accordance with Section 11C of the FOI Act. Those documents will be published on the website within 10 working days of the applicant being given access to the documents, in accordance with Section 11(c)(6) of the Act.

Charges

The FOI Act provides that charges involved in processing FOI requests may be levied. The rates of charges are fixed in accordance with regulations made under the FOI Act. A copy of the regulations is available on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.

Review of FOI decisions

Following receipt of the decision on access, applicants can seek an internal review of the decision by writing to the FOI Coordinator within 30 days of being notified of the decision.

Alternatively, applicants may write to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) seeking a review of the Commission's decision. This can be done as a result of either the initial decision or the internal review decision.

Subsequent review options after internal review and OAIC review are also available. The complete process for seeking a review on access is provided in the decision letter sent to applicants at the completion of the request.

Optional information to be published under the IPS

Section 8(4) of the FOI Act provides that agencies may publish other information.

The Commission publishes a range of other information including:

Accessibility under the IPS

Information added to the Commission's website after commencement of the Information Publication Scheme (1 May 2011) is intended to comply with the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 at the 'Single A' level. Agencies are to achieve WCAG 2.0 Level AA by 31 December 2014.

The Commission's website provides a large electronic collection of publications from previous years. Although that content is no longer current, it is considered to be important reference material and some publications are still popular. This content will remain at WCAG 1.0 accessibility level.

IPS compliance review

Section 9 of the FOI Act requires that agencies review the operation of the IPS at least every 5 years, in conjunction with the Information Commissioner. The initial review for the Productivity Commission must be completed by May 2016. The Commission intends to periodically review this plan in the interim to ensure it remains current.