ARC slow and no to FOI

Back in 2018 Monash U economist Christis Tombazos asked the Australian Research Council for details of Discovery programme applications in economics. The Council said no

The matter ended up before the Australian Information Commissioner, which reports the ARC rejected two requests on two grounds, personal privacy and the documents asked for did not exist – although nearly a year later it advised that there were in fact such documents. But by 2021 the council was still stating it did not have to supply most of the information.

To all of which FOI Commissioner Leo Hardiman recently responded, “I have concluded in the circumstances of this IC review that the public interest factors relating to scrutiny of government activities and oversight of public expenditure outweigh the countervailing public interest in maintaining personal privacy.”

The Commissioner also commented, “the ARC has chosen to engage in a very minimal way with this IC review and has provided very little evidence in support of its exemption contentions,” adding,

“in the absence of sufficient evidence being provided by an agency and absent any other material that is provided by or is relevant to a third party, maintenance of the agency’s contentions in a decision on review may in many cases be significantly less likely than would otherwise be the case.”

Last night an ARC spokesperson told CMM the agency is appealing the decision.