Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton during Question Time in the House of Representatives this week. His Department is under investigation over FOI failures. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton during Question Time in the House of Representatives this week. His Department is under investigation over FOI failures. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Your Right to Know: Dutton faces secrecy investigation

The Department of Home Affairs is facing an investigation for failing to respond to more than half of all Freedom of Information requests within the required time frame.

The Office of the Information Commissioner launched its investigation on Friday, a week after releasing its annual report.

The agency also said it had received "a number of FOI complaints and review applications" about the Department's delays in processing requests for even "non-personal" information.

The Home Affairs investigation follows a week of intense public scrutiny of the Morrison Government over an increasing "culture of secrecy" in its ranks as part of the Your Right to Know campaign, and after a number of newspapers turned their front pages black to highlight the issue.

The media coalition, which includes News Corp, the ABC, Nine, SBS, The Guardian, and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, is asking for six reforms to ensure the public is kept informed about government actions, including changes to Freedom of Information laws to reduce delays, obstacles, costs, and wide-ranging exceptions.

The OAIC's annual report showed the Department of Home Affairs received the greatest number of FOI requests last year, at 17,725, but the number of requests submitted for non-personal information fell by 44 per cent.

The Department of Home Affairs also refused the greatest number of requests by a large margin, according to the report, denying 908 requests or more than five per cent.

A further 5,375 FOI requests to Home Affairs were only partially granted.


 

Commissioner Angelene Falk said this year's FOI figures proved "organisations must act" to ensure they met expectations of an open, accessible government.

"The trends we are seeing reinforce the importance of our mission: to increase public trust and confidence in the protection of personal information and access to government-held information," she said.

A spokesman for the OAIC said the agency would not comment on the investigation until it had been completed.

The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.


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