How Mr Hardiman quitting his job affects deeming rates: FOI

Article published 15 March 2023

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ON 6 March, the federal Freedom of Information (FOI) commissioner, Mr Leo Hardiman KC, gave notice, less than a year into a five-year contract.

He says his powers don’t allow him to fix a system plagued by delays.

You might be tempted to stop reading here, wondering how FOI affects you when it’s at home. But over the years CPSA has used the FOI system to great effect. For example, it was CPSA which prised assault stats for Queensland Gold Coast nursing homes out of the Department of Health using FOI.

The Centre for Public Integrity in September said FOI requests responded to outside the statutory 30-day period had increased from 11.5 per cent in 2011-12 to 22.5 per cent in 2021-22.

One-in-eight responses to FOI applications are now over 90 days late.

CPSA has currently one review of a departmental decision on an FOI application outstanding with Mr Hardiman’s office. It’s been outstanding for a while, since 2019 in fact, while the initial FOI application dates back to 2018.

Briefly, CPSA applied to the Department of Social Services for information that would show how decisions about increasing or lowering the deeming rates are made.

CPSA cited public interest and the fact that the Reserve Bank explains its cash rate decision every month. Why should the Department of Social Services and its Minister be any different?

The Department said: no.

CPSA lodged a review application with the Department.

The Department again said: no.

CPSA appealed to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

And that’s where it’s been sitting ever since, at the bottom of the bottom drawer.

Deeming rates are ‘frozen’ until 30 June next year. But given the increases in bank interest rates, July 2024 may well bring an increase in deeming rates.

Wouldn’t you like to know what factors were taken into consideration in setting any increase?

Look at the lively public discussion about the Reserve Bank’s cash rate decisions. Wouldn’t it be good if the deeming rates received as much public scrutiny?

CPSA’s FOI application may still come to fruition. Just before Christmas last year, CPSA received a letter from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, which read in part:

We are progressing the review of all IC [Information Commissioner] review applications received in 2018 and 2019.

Given the passage of time, as a preliminary step, I am writing to enquire whether you wish to continue your IC review or withdraw it.

Two guesses what CPSA response was to this.

Thank you Mr Hardiman for your good work, shame it was impossible for you to continue.

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