Just 2 out of 35 NBN Co FOIs successful

NBN Co has been cleared of any misuse of FOI law, yet only two of the 35 FOI requests were completely successful.

A review of NBN Co's Freedom of Information (FOI) processes by Stuart Morris QC found that NBN Co has complied with FOI processes, and is not misusing the "commercial activities" exemption, despite only two of 35 FOI requests being completely successful.

Morris' report (PDF), tabled in parliament last night, looked at 35 FOI requests made between the period of 11 June 2011 to 31 May 2012 to the company charged with rolling out Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN). Of these requests, 17 were withdrawn, three were refused, four found no documents, four had partial access granted, one was deferred, one was transferred and three had yet to be finalised.

One of the requests was treated as two separate requests.

The requests ranged from information about the Optus-NBN Co deal to Internode's request to be provided with the full details of the AU$11 billion Telstra deal with NBN Co , and questions of employee remuneration to the cost of the fibre-extension process beyond the existing fibre footprint .

Morris found that NBN Co has complied with the FOI Act, and responded to requests in a timely and professional manner that tended to adopt a "pro-disclosure" view on releasing documents. He said that there was no reason why NBN Co should change the way it exempts certain documents related to commercial activities.

"My review of the operation of the FOI Act in relation to the NBN Co does not reveal any basis to change the 'commercial activities' exemption," he said. "There is no basis to conclude that the broad nature of 'commercial activities' exemption has been abused; or that it has had the effect of unreasonably broadening the field of exempt documents."

He said that if the exemption was confined, this would make it more complex to deal with future FOI requests, and added that NBN Co had achieved a "high standard" in meeting FOI obligations.

"I find that the high standard achieved by NBN Co in relation to its FOI Act obligations are, in no small part, due to the competence and training of the FOI officer engaged by NBN Co," Morris said.

Josh Taylor participated in the review process, but the FOI request from ZDNet Australia in relation to the Huawei ban was not included as part of this report, as it is still ongoing at the time of the review.

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