The information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC) oversees the following laws concerning access to government information.
- Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) (external website)
- Government Information (Public Access) Regulations 2009 (GIPA Regulations) (external website)
- Government Information (Information Commissioner) Act 2009 (GIIC Act) (external website)
The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act)
The GIPA Act establishes a proactive, more open approach to gaining access to government information in New South Wales (NSW). The objects of the GIPA Act are to maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic Government that is open, accountable, fair and effective.
The GIPA Act:
- authorises and encourages the proactive release of information by NSW public sector agencies
- gives members of the public a legally enforceable right to access government information
- ensures that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against releasing that information.
The GIPA Act applies to all NSW government agencies, and also extends to Ministers and their staff, local councils, state-owned corporations, courts in their non-judicial functions, and to certain public authorities, such as universities.
The guiding principle of the GIPA Act is public interest. It is generally presumed that all government agencies will disclose or release information, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so. Under the GIPA Act it is compulsory for agencies to provide information about their structure, functions and policies, and agencies are encouraged to proactively and informally release as much other information as possible.
An access application (also known as a formal application) should only need to be lodged as a last resort. Where access applications are needed, the GIPA Act outlines the process that applicants and agencies should follow, as well as the options for reviewing decisions about an access application.
Government Information (Public Access) Regulations 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Regulations)
The GIPA Regulations:
- prescribe additional open access information that local authorities, Ministers, departments and statutory bodies must make publicly available
- sets out the statistical information regarding formal applications that agencies must include in their annual reports
- in the case of an access application relating to a school, extends the period in which the application must be decided if the usual 20-day period for deciding the application occurs during the school holidays
- specify the corresponding access to information laws of other Australian jurisdictions under which information may be exempt (this is a relevant public interest consideration against disclosure under section 14)
- declare certain bodies to be public authorities for the purpose of the GIPA Act
- declare certain entities to be sub-agencies and parent agencies for the purpose of access applications
- provide that records held by the Audit Office or the Ombudsman's Office that were originally created or received by another agency are taken to be held by the original agency.
Government Information (Information Commissioner) Act 2009 (GIIC Act)
The GIIC Act establishes the procedures for appointing the Information Commissioner, and sets out the Commissioner's powers and functions. It outlines the method for people to complain about the conduct of agencies when undertaking their duties under the GIPA Act, and the way in which the Information Commissioner may deal with the complaint.
The GIIC Act also enables the Information Commissioner to investigate and report on how agencies carry out their functions under the GIPA Act.
The NSW Information Commissioner has led the coordination of a Jurisdictional Compendium prepared by the Association of Information Access Commissioners. The Compendium was prepared to assist in the development of the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, particularly the Plan's draft commitment to review information access laws and to be available as a resource for each jurisdiction.
The Compendium identifies the similarities and differences of Australian legislative arrangements at a high level and does not purport to represent a detailed analysis of these arrangements.