Information Publication Scheme (IPS) Plan

RTF version RTF version (14.3 MB)

Contents


Introduction

Background

1. The Federal Court of Australia (Federal Court) is a prescribed authority (and hence an agency) for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act) and obliged, from 1 May 2011, to comply with the Information Publication Scheme (IPS) requirements which commenced from that date under sections 7A, 8, 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D, 8E, 8F, 9, 9A, 10, 10A and 11C of the FOI Act.

2. The Federal Court was created by the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) (Federal Court Act). It is a superior court of record and a court of law and equity. The Federal Court consists of a Chief Justice and other judges who are appointed to the Federal Court. The Chief Justice is responsible for managing the administrative affairs of the Federal Court and is assisted by the Registrar of the Federal Court. The Registrar has the same powers as the Head of a Statutory Agency of the Australian Public Service in respect of the officers and staff of the Federal Court employed under the Public Service Act 1999.

3. The judicial officers of the Federal Court are deemed not to be a prescribed authority for the purposes of the FOI Act[1] and the FOI Act does not apply to any document relating to the consideration or handling of a complaint about a judicial officer[2]. Additionally the FOI Act does not apply to any request for access to a document in the possession of the Federal Court unless the document relates to the management and administration of the Court’s registry and office resources[3].

4. Proceedings in the Federal Court are regulated by the Federal Court Act. The Federal Court Act permits the judges of the Federal Court or a majority of them to make rules of court not inconsistent with the Federal Court Act. These rules provide for the practice and procedure to be followed in the Federal Court and the registries of the Federal Court, as well as matters incidental to those practices or procedures.

5. The current Federal Court Rules came into operation on 1 August 2011 following extensive consultation with the Law Council of Australia; Bar Associations and Law Societies of all States and Territories; and other regular users. In some specific areas of the Court’s jurisdiction separate rules of court apply[4].

6. Access to court documents in the possession of the Federal Court (i.e. documents filed or lodged in any proceedings ) are dealt with having regard to sections 17 and Part VAA (Sections 37AA to 37AL) of the Federal Court Act and Rule 2.32 of the Federal Court Rules[5].

7. The Federal Court redeveloped its website in late 2012 and, in doing so, to the extent then possible and affordable brought it into line with all current requirements for Australian Government websites, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Version 2) (WCAG 2.0). In that redevelopment the Federal Court also dealt with all reasonably possible information architecture issues of its online information (including IPS information). The redeveloped website:

  • Includes the IPS and Freedom of Information (FOI) Disclosure Log icons recommended by the Australian Information Commissioner prominently located on the home page which link to the IPS and FOI Disclosure Log pages of the website.

  • Has a sitemap and search facility.

  • Has a clear statement about copyright and the extent to which the public can reuse material in which the Commonwealth of Australia or the judges of the Court hold copyright which is accessible from all pages (including the home page and IPS page).

  • Wherever possible makes posted documents available in accessible formats.

  • Adopts on the IPS page headings which, as relevant, are consistent with the recommendation made by the Australian Information Commissioner in paragraph 13.121 of the Guidelines issued under section 93A of the FOI Act.

  • Was launched only after a complete review of the accuracy, currency and relevant completeness of all content.

  • Offers subscribers an email notification service about changes to the Court’s practice and procedure and a “Really Simple Syndication” (RSS) feed of announcements and news from the Court.

8. The Federal Court will shortly commence implementation of a document management strategy for the transition, over the next few years, to electronic document and records management of both court documents and administrative documents. In the implementation of that strategy, consideration will be given to the development of an information asset management framework for the Federal Court.

9. Some judicial officers of the Federal Court hold appointments as either a President or a Deputy President of the Australian Competition Tribunal, the Copyright Tribunal or the Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal. The Federal Court and its staff provide the operational and administrative support required by each of these Tribunals. Each Tribunal operates under its own legislative framework and publishes information about its operations, practices and decisions through individual websites (although all may also be accessed from the Federal Court's website). None of the Tribunals provides an annual report to the Parliament but information about the operation of each Tribunal over the preceding year is included in the Federal Court's annual report to Parliament. Each Tribunal is subject to the FOI Act and is required to comply with the IPS requirements.

10. From 1 July 2012 the corporate services functions and certain corporate and operational staff of the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) were transferred to the Federal Court. As a result of amendments to the Native Title Act 1993, on 12 March 2013 the NNTT ceased to be a statutory agency for the purposes of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Public Service Act 1999 headed by the Native Title Registrar (NTR). Nevertheless the NNTT and the NTR continue to undertake statutory functions under the Native Title Act and, although neither provides an annual report to the Parliament, information about the performance of those functions is included in the Federal Court’s annual report to Parliament. The NNTT maintains a separate website. Both the NNTT and NTR are subject to the FOI Act and are required to comply with the IPS requirements. The NNTT has prepared an IPS plan and continues to publish IPS information on its website. That plan will continue to operate in relation to the IPS obligations of the NNTT and NTR.

11. The Federal Court of Australia Information Publication Plan (the Plan) was prepared as required by subsection 8(1) of the FOI Act with effect from 1 May 2013 and described how the Federal Court would implement the IPS and maintain its IPS obligations for itself and for each of the Tribunals it supports referred to in paragraph 9 above. In the Plan all references to the Federal Court include, as relevant and appropriate, each of those Tribunals. With effect from 10 February 2014, the plan was revised taking into account legislative and other changes to the interpretation of relevant parts of the law; completion of the redevelopment of the Court’s website; progress in planning for implementation of a document management strategy in the Court; and the experience of the operation in the Federal Court of the IPS, FOI Disclosure Log and associated activities. In considering the latter the agency self-assessment checklist published by the Australian Information Commissioner on its website was used and regard was had to the report published by the Australian Information Commissioner in August 2012 on the survey of Australian Government agencies’ IPS compliance conducted by ORIMA Research.

Purpose

12. The purpose of the Plan is to describe:

  • The information that the Federal Court publishes for the purpose of the IPS.
  • How, and to whom, that information is published.
  • How the Federal Court otherwise complies with the IPS requirements.

13. In addition, the preparation and revision of the Plan assisted the Federal Court in planning for the implementation of the IPS and in the ongoing administration of the IPS consistent with the requirements of the FOI Act.

Objectives

14. The objectives of the Plan are to outline appropriate mechanisms and procedures to:

  • Manage the information in the possession of the Federal Court relevant to the IPS.

  • Proactively identify and publish all information in the possession of the Federal Court which is now and at any time in the future may be required to be published[6].

  • Proactively identify and publish any optional information in the possession of the Federal Court which now or at any time in the future might appropriately be published[7].

  • Regularly review and ensure that information published by the Federal Court under the IPS is accurate, up-to-date and complete[8].

  • Ensure that information published by the Federal Court under the IPS is easily locatable, understandable, machine-readable and as transformable as possible and appropriate.

  • Ensure satisfactory conformance with the Web Content Accessible Guidelines (Version 2) (WCAG 2.0).

  • Measure the performance of the Federal Court in successfully implementing and maintaining the Plan.

  • Adopt best practice initiatives in implementing and maintaining the Federal Court’s obligations under the IPS.

Implementing a Federal Court IPS

Establishing an IPS

15. The Plan and its revision has been approved by the Registrar. The Deputy Registrar has the responsibility for co-ordination within the Federal Court of the initial and on-going planning and development; implementation; and administration of the Federal Court’s IPS. Ad hoc working groups of Federal Court staff with appropriate expertise and experience have and will be set up as required to assist.

16. Dedicated web pages have been created on the Federal Court’s website (www.fedcourt.gov.au) for the IPS and for a FOI Disclosure Log in accord with the principles which were set out in the Australian Information Commissioner’s Guidance for Agency Websites issued on 22 March 2011(now the “Guidance for agency websites: 'Access to information' web page"). The Federal Court has decided that such a “Freedom of Information” approach is appropriate for it as an agency which:

  • Holds only a very limited range of documents to which the FOI Act applies.
  • Receives few FOI requests each year.
  • Has settled legislative practice and procedures (quite independent of and distinct from the FOI Act) which govern access to the documents which the Federal Court holds in which the public and court users have most interest, namely documents filed or lodged in proceedings before the Federal Court.

In addition, the web pages on the Federal Court’s website for FOI and Privacy have also been revised to accord with the principles in that guideline (as updated). Progressively the websites of the Tribunals mentioned in paragraph 9 (www.competitiontribunal.gov.au, www.copyrighttribunal.gov.au and www.defenceappeals.gov.au) are similarly being revised in accordance with the principles in that guideline.

17. In conjunction with the redevelopment of the Federal Court’s website and the review of accuracy, currency and relevant completeness of content which preceded it, a register of information (including that published under subsections 8(2) and (4) of the FOI Act[9]) was developed and has since been maintained. As part of the planning of the audit of content undertaken for that purpose, processes and systems were established for quality controlled preparation, approval and publication of updated or new information and documents. These have also been maintained for the preparation of new information and documents as well as the ongoing review of existing information and documents.

18. To assist with achieving ongoing compliance with WCAG 2.0, the register of information referred to in paragraph 17 above will be enhanced to record details of the format of all information and documents. That register will also record any issues that may affect publication of any such documents and information on the Federal Court’s and the Tribunals’ websites.

19. To assist with the maintenance of the FOI Disclosure Log web pages, the Federal Court has established a register of documents to which access has been provided under the FOI Act. It has recorded in that register such details as necessary for that purpose, as well as providing FOI information and statistics required under section 93 of the FOI Act and the Australian Information Commissioner’s Reporting Guidelines issued under section 93A of the FOI Act[10].

20. The Federal Court may charge a person for accessing any IPS information which is impracticable to be published online to reimburse for specific reproduction costs or other specific incidental costs[11] or for other charges as published on the Federal Court’s and the Tribunals’ websites. These charges will be consistent with charges in the Freedom of Information (Charges) Regulations 1982.

Information architecture and accessibility

21. The IPS information published by the Federal Court under the Plan from 1 May 2011 on the FOI, IPS, FOI Disclosure Log and Privacy web pages, has been published in one or more of RTF, PDF or HTML formats as practicable. Where a document has not been or is not available in an accessible format or available only in hardcopy, it has been and will be made available on request in an appropriate format or hardcopy and contact details for any such request have been and will continue to be provided on the website.

22. The Federal Court continues with its planning for the progressive achievement of compliance with the known future WCAG 2.0 requirements within the timeframes specified in WCAG 2.0.

23. New and revised IPS information published on the Federal Court’s or Tribunals’ websites will, so far as possible, be fully WCAG 2.0 compliant.

24. The Federal Court will, so far as possible and appropriate, make its IPS information available for reuse on open licensing terms.

25. Should the Federal Court deposit or publish IPS documents or information under a scheme, such as the Commonwealth Library Deposit, the National Film and Sound Archive or www.data.gov.au, the Federal Court will publish on its website (or that of the relevant Tribunal if this relates to a Tribunal) information about the deposits (including links where available).

Information required to be published

26. The information required by subsection 8(2) of the FOI Act to be published will be made available on the dedicated IPS web page under the following headings and include:

  • Agency plan[12]
    • The Plan or any revisions of it
  • Who we are[13]
    • An organisational chart
    • A list of relevant statutory appointments made under the Federal Court Act, the legislation under which each of the Tribunals supported by the Federal Court operate and other relevant legislation
  • What we do[14]
    • An outline of the functions and powers of the Federal Court
    • A list of the statutes of the Parliament which confer original jurisdiction on the Federal Court
  • Our reports and responses to Parliament[15]
    • Annual reports prepared by the Federal Court under section 18S of the Federal Court Act
    • Information compiled or provided in response to an order from the Parliament
  • Routinely requested information[16]
    • Any information which is regularly provided in response to requests to the Federal Court (subject to the exceptions in paragraph 8(2)(g), FOI Act)
  • Consultation[17]
    • An outline of the arrangements and processes adopted by the Federal Court in consulting with the public or segments of it on any specific policy proposals for which the Federal Court is responsible
  • Contact us[18]
    • Contact details for the Federal Court’s FOI contact officer, who can be asked about access to the Federal Court’s information and documents under the FOI Act.

27. The information required by section 11C of the FOI Act to be published will be made available on the FOI Disclosure Log web page.

28. The information published may be by way of online link to the relevant document or information.

Optional information

29. Other information which the Federal Court may, over time or from time to time, under subsection 8(4) of the FOI Act decide to publish taking into account the objects of the FOI Act will also be made available on the dedicated IPS web page under the headings:

as well as such other headings as may be appropriate depending on the nature of the information.

30. The information published may be by way of online link to the relevant document or information.

Administering the IPS

31. The ongoing compliance with the IPS will be co-ordinated by the Deputy Registrar. Each Registry, as well as designated staff within Principal Registry, will be responsible, as required, for tasks associated with such compliance within their areas of control and influence in consultation with the Deputy Registrar.

32. Each Registry and Principal Registry will implement the processes and systems developed or revised for quality controlled preparation, approval, publication and regular ongoing review of new or updated documents and information and any other processes and systems required for ongoing compliance with and support of the IPS.

33. All new documents and information identified through the process of preparation as necessary or desired for IPS publication will be published as soon as possible after receiving approval.

34. The Federal Court will develop, in conjunction with the implementation of the proposed document management strategy and the creation of a document management framework for the totality of the Federal Court’s document and information needs, integrated processes and systems to support the administration of the IPS. The work on implementation of the document management strategy and framework will be delivered in stages over a number of years and will include development of associated plans, policies and procedures supported by technology or other solutions. It will also integrate or support the Court’s records management needs. Pending delivery of relevant components of that larger project, the administration of the IPS will be supported by basic technology (such as applications available to Federal Court staff on their computer desktop standard operating environment which operates across the Federal Court’s wide area network) or other systems.

Review and evaluation

35. The Federal Court will review the Plan at least annually. In addition, the Federal Court will review the Plan, as soon as possible, after any significant change in the guidelines in relation to the IPS, FOI Disclosure Log and Agency Websites issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under section 93A of the FOI Act from time to time.

36. In conjunction with each annual review of the Plan, the Federal Court will complete a basic evaluation of its performance in implementing and administering the Plan and the IPS in the Federal Court during the previous year. That evaluation will have regard to the number of visits being made to the FOI, IPS, and FOI Disclosure Log web pages and any feedback received from users in relation to those web pages as well as other relevant information. It will also take into account better practice material published for such evaluations by any Australian public sector agency or the Australian Information Commissioner.

37. Following each annual and ad hoc review the Plan will be revised, as necessary, to take account of any changed requirements; the experience to that time of the operation in the Federal Court of the IPS, FOI Disclosure Log and associated activities; and best practice in relation to the IPS, FOI Disclosure Log and associated activities across the Australian public sector. In considering the latter, the Federal Court will have regard to any better practice guidance material published relating to the IPS by any Australian public sector agency, by bodies such as the Management Advisory Committee and, in particular, by the Australian Information Commissioner as well as any academic research or studies. The Federal Court will also have regard to plans published by other agencies.

38. As required by section 9 of the FOI Act, the Federal Court will, in conjunction with the Australian Information Commissioner, complete a review of the operation of the IPS in the Federal Court on or before 1 May 2016 and thereafter within each period of 5 years from the completion of the previous such review. These reviews will be carried out in accordance with any guidelines about IPS compliance reviews issued from time to time by the Australian Information Commissioner under section 93A of the FOI Act[22].

 

Revised: 4 February 2014
Date of effect of revisions: 10 February 2014

 



[1] See paragraph 5(1)(b), FOI Act.

[2] See subsection 5(1A), FOI Act.

[3] See subsection 5(1), FOI Act and Kline v Official Secretary to the Governor General [2013] HCA 52, at [47].

[4] For Admiralty and maritime matters: Admiralty Rules 1988; for corporations matters: Federal Court (Corporations) Rules 2000; and for bankruptcy matters: Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016.

[5] Some restrictions to access to certain court documents are imposed in some circumstances by each of the Admiralty Rules 1988, Federal Court (Corporations) Rules 2000 and Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2005.

[6] See subsection 8(2), FOI Act.

[7] See subsection 8(4), FOI Act.

[8] See section 8B, FOI Act.

[9] See paragraphs 13.19 and 13.20 of the Australian Information Commissioner’s Information Publication Scheme Guidelines issued under section 93A of the FOI Act

[10] Part 15. See also paragraphs 14.67, 14.69 and 14.70 of the Australian Information Commissioner’s Disclosure Log Guidelinesissued under section 93A of the FOI Act

[11] See subsection 8(4), FOI Act

[12] See paragraph 8(2)(a), FOI Act

[13] See paragraphs 8(2)(b) and (d), FOI Act

[14] See paragraphs 8(2)(c) and (j), FOI Act

[15] See paragraphs 8(2)(e) and (h), FOI Act

[16] See paragraph 8(2)(g), FOI Act

[17] See paragraphs 8(2)(f), FOI Act

[18] See paragraphs 8(2)(i), FOI Act

[19] See paragraph 13.121, Australian Information Commissioner’s Information Publication Scheme Guidelines issued on 21 April 2011

[20] See paragraph 13.121, Australian Information Commissioner’s Information Publication Scheme Guidelines issued on 21 April 2011

[21] See paragraph 13.121, Australian Information Commissioner’s Information Publication Scheme Guidelines issued on 21 April 2011

[22] See paragraphs13.131 to 13.133 and 14.69 and 14.70