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Release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act)

The decision maker may decide not to release documents in response to an FOI access request for a number of reasons. These reasons fall into four main categories:


Intelligence agencies listened in Part 1, Division 1 of Schedule 2 of the FOI Act (including Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Office of National Assessment and documents that originate with or were received from these intelligence agencies), Parliament, the Governor-General and other authorities listed in Schedule 2 of the FOI Act are specifically excluded from the operation of the FOI Act.

Deferments and Refusals

An agency or Minister can defer providing a document requested under an FOI access request until the expiration of a certain period of time in certain cases; provide access to an edited copy of a document with exempt and irrelevant material removed; or refuse to provide the document, if the provision of the document would be unreasonably burdensome on the resources of the agency or the document cannot be found, does not exist or was not received.


A document that meets the criteria of one of the particular exemptions is wholly exempt and does not need to satisfy any additional test.

Conditional exemptions

In deciding whether or not to refuse to provide a document that fits within an FOI access request conditionally exempt documents are subject to a balancing test - the document must be disclosed unless the disclosure of the document, on balance, is contrary to the public interest.

In last three categories, the decision maker must provide a statement of reasons under section 26 if any aspect of an FOI request is refused or if access is deferred.


Section Exemption
7 Exemption of certain persons and bodies

Deferments and Refusals

21 Deferment of access
22 Access to edited copies with exempt or irrelevant matter deleted
24 Power to refuse- Diversion of resources
24A Documents cannot be found, do not exist or have not been received


33 Documents affecting national security, defence or international relations
34 Cabinet documents
37 Documents affecting enforcement of the law and protection of public safety
38 Documents to which secrecy provisions of enactment apply
42 Documents subject to legal professional privilege
45 Documents containing material obtained in confidence
45A A Parliamentary Budget Office documents
46 Documents disclosure of which would be contempt of Parliament of contempt of court
47 Documents disclosing trade secrets or commercially valuable information

Conditional Exemptions

47A Electoral rolls and related documents
47B Public interest conditional exemptions- Commonwealth- State relations
47C Public interest conditional exemptions- deliberative process
47D Public interest conditional exemptions- financial property of the Commonwealth or Norfolk Island
47E Public interest conditional exemptions- certain operations of agencies
47F Public interest conditional exemptions- personal privacy
47G Public interest conditional exemptions- business
47H Public interest conditional exemptions- research
47J Public interest conditional exemptions- the economy