Ex-senator's freedom of information case thrown out

·1-min read
Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

A former senator's legal challenge to Australia's "broken" freedom of information system has been thrown out of court.

Ex-independent senator Rex Patrick took the Australian Information Commissioner to the Federal Court over FOI delays, some of which he claimed exceeded three years.

Mr Patrick, who has more than 20 FOI applications under review, wanted the court to examine how long it takes the commissioner to make decisions and to outline what was an unreasonable delay.

There is no legal obligation for the commissioner to reach a decision within a specific period of time.

He said the FOI system was broken and shielded the federal government from scrutiny.

Issues within the commissioner's office were highlighted in March, when Leo Hardiman KC quit less than a year into a five-year appointment.

The current commissioner is Angelene Falk.

Justice Michael Wheelahan rejected Mr Patrick's court bid on Friday, finding his case would involve "inappropriate judicial interference with the decisional freedom of an executive body".

He found the commissioner had limited resources to undertake the volume of reviews before her and delays in Mr Patrick's application were due to "an unquestionable shortage of resources".

But he said it would be inappropriate for the court to evaluate the commissioner's workload, assess her priorities or determine how she should best manage those limited resources.

"Whether that situation is acceptable is not a question for the court to decide," Judge Wheelahan wrote in his decision.

It was ultimately up to the Commonwealth to legislate appropriate funding to the commissioner, he said.