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Section 18 - Transfer of requests

Guidelines

Purpose and effect of section 18

1.1

An agency or Minister may transfer a request to another agency or Minister where:

  • the requested document is not in the possession of the agency or Minister, but is known to be in the possession of another agency or Minister;1 or
  • the subject matter of the requested document is more closely connected with another agency or Minister’s functions, than with the functions of the agency or Minister.2
1.2

The power to transfer a request is discretionary. This means that an agency or Minister does not have to transfer a request, even if the conditions of section 18(2) are met. However, in deciding whether to use the discretion to transfer a request, an agency or Minister should consider the object of the Act in section 3, which is to facilitate and promote the disclosure of information promptly, and at the lowest reasonable cost.

Document is not in the possession of the agency or Minister – section 18(2)(b)(i)

1.3

Section 18(2)(b)(i) applies where an agency or Minister receives a request for access to a document that is not in the possession of that agency or Minister, but the agency or Minister is aware that the document is in the possession of another agency or Minister.

1.4

In this circumstance, the agency or Minister may:

  • promptly transfer the request to the other agency or Minister; and
  • inform the applicant that the request has been transferred to the other agency or Minister.5

Document’s subject matter is more closely connected with the functions of another agency – section 18(2)(b)(ii)

1.5

Section 18(2)(b)(ii) applies where the subject matter of the requested document is more closely connected with the functions of another agency or Minister, than with the receiving agency or Minister.

1.6

In this circumstance, the agency or Minister may:

  • promptly transfer the request to the other agency or Minister;
  • inform the applicant that the request has been transferred to the other agency or Minister; and
  • send the requested document to the other agency or Minister if the document is in the possession of the agency or Minister and it is necessary to transfer the document to enable the other agency or Minister to deal with the request. This situation may arise where the other agency or Minister is not in possession of the document but has the right to call for the agency’s or Minister’s copy of the document.7
1.7

The subject matter of a document is to be determined from its contents, viewed in its whole context.8

1.8

The functions of an agency are usually found in the agency’s enabling legislation.9

1.9

An agency or Minister should consider the purpose and role of the agency and Minister, and the connection of the document with the functions of the agency or Minister. The document must be more connected with the functions of the other agency or Minister, not simply connected.10

1.10

The power to transfer a request is discretionary. This means that if another agency’s functions are more closely connected with the subject matter of a requested document, the agency does not have to transfer the request.11 The agency can still choose to process the request under the Act.

The whole request must be transferred, not part of a request

1.11

The Act provides an agency or Minister with the power to transfer an entire request to another agency, not parts of a request. Individual items cannot be severed from the body of a main request.17

1.12

In circumstances where an applicant makes a request to an agency or Minister for multiple documents and some documents are held by the agency or Minister and some documents are held by another agency or Minister, it may be appropriate for the agency or Minister to:

  • exercise its duty to assist under section 17(3), by directing the applicant to make a separate request to the other agency or Minister for the documents held by the other agency or Minister; or
  • transfer the entire request to the other agency or Minister, under section 18(2)(b)(ii), if the subject matter of the documents is more closely connected with the functions of the other agency or Minister.

Available time to make a decision on a transferred request

1.13

Transferring a request impacts the timing for providing a decision on a request.

1.14

If a request is transferred to an agency or Minister under section 18(2), section 18(3) deems the request to have been received by the agency or Minister on whichever of the following dates is the shorter period:

  • at the time the transfer is made; or
  • 14 days after the date of the original request.
1.15

Assuming that the transferred request is a valid request under section 17, the time for processing the request begins the day after the date determined under section 18(3).19

1.16

It is important that requests are transferred promptly, to ensure that the receiving agency or Minister is given the maximum allowable time to process a request under the Act.

Who keeps the application fee?

1.17

The Act does not require an agency or Minister to transfer the application fee paid by an applicant to the other agency or Minister when transferring a request under section 18.

More information

Template 10 – Transfer of request notice – agency

Template 11 – Transfer of request notice – applicant

  1. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 18(2)(b)(i).
  2. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 18(2)(b)(ii).
  3. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 18(2)(b)(i).
  4. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 18(2)(b)(ii).
  5. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 18(2)(b)(i).
  6. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 18(2)(b)(i).
  7. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 18(2)(b)(ii).
  8. Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] VCAT 1195, [10].
  9. Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] VCAT 1195, [10].
  10. Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] VCAT 1195, [10].
  11. Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] VCAT 1195, [11].
  12. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 18(2)(b)(ii).
  13. Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] VCAT 1195, [10].
  14. Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] VCAT 1195, [10].
  15. Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] VCAT 1195, [10].
  16. Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] VCAT 1195, [11].
  17. Wright v State Electricity Commission (No 1) (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Megay SM, 29 July 1998).
  18. Wright v State Electricity Commission (No 1) (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Megay SM, 29 July 1998).
  19. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) section 21; Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2012] VCAT 435; Boyd v Victoria Police (Review and Regulation) [2017] VCAT 2021, [13]-[14].
  20. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) section 21; Smeaton v Victorian Workcover Authority [2012] VCAT 435; Boyd v Victoria Police (Review and Regulation) [2017] VCAT 2021, [13]-[14].

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Last updated 27 December 2023

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