Access to information

Government Information (Public Access) Policy

Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 ('GIPA Act') provides for public access to government held information. The legislation, which commenced in 2010, was introduced to provide an open and transparent process for giving the public access to information from New South Wales public sector agencies and to encourage the proactive public release of government information.

The object of the GIPA Act is to open government information to the public by:

  • giving members of the public a legally enforceable right to access government information,
  • ensuring that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against releasing that information,
  • authorising and encouraging the proactive release of information by NSW public sector agencies.

The GIPA Act is administered by the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC), an independent statutory body, that promotes and protects privacy and information access rights in New South Wales. The IPC website (www.ipc.nsw.gov.au) contains information for government agencies and the public about accessing government information in NSW.

Administration of GIPA at the Parliamentary Counsel's Office ('PCO')

The guiding principle of the GIPA Act is public interest. It is generally presumed that all government agencies will disclose or release information, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so.

It is noted that most PCO documents cannot be released as they are Cabinet documents or documents attracting legal professional privilege and there is an overriding public interest against disclosing these documents to the public. However, one of PCO's key objectives is to facilitate public access to legislation (namely, legislation that has been enacted, introduced into Parliament or released for public consultation) and PCO actively provides free public access to that legislation and as much information about legislation as possible.

The GIPA Act provides four ways for accessing government information. These are described below together with their implementation at the PCO:

  1. Open access information (mandatory release)

    Agencies are required to release certain information, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so. Generally, open access information must be available on an agency's website. A list of particular information needed to be released is provided in the Government Information (Public Access) Regulation 2009.

    At the PCO, information that is open access is available on the PCO's corporate website (www.pco.nsw.gov.au). Information is contained in:

    • PCO's Annual Report
    • PCO's Code of Conduct

  2. Authorised proactive release

    If it is in the public interest, agencies are authorised and encouraged to release as much other information as possible, free of charge or at the lowest possible cost.

    The PCO is continually aiming to increase access to legislation and information about legislation for lawyers, researchers and other users of legislation. Access is provided to the public by the PCO maintaining three websites:

    • the legislation website (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au) is the official NSW Government website for online publication of legislation (including the Government Gazette).
    • the corporate website (www.pco.nsw.gov.au) provides information about the PCO and its functions, plans, reports and policies.
    • the Australasian Parliamentary Counsel's Committee website (www.pcc.gov.au) contains a range of publications about the operations of the Committee, including information relating to the drafting of national uniform legislation.

    The PCO has proactively reviewed and published information, procedures and policies on its websites. Information is being assessed and published on the websites on a continual basis and is reviewed at least once every 12 months.

    The PCO has assessed and released the following documents to the public on its legislation website (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au):

  3. Informal release of information

    A person may contact the agency and ask for information. This is known as an informal request. Agencies can release information informally, subject to any reasonable conditions.

    All applications are referred to the Parliamentary Counsel for assessment and response. The Parliamentary Counsel applies the 'public interest test' in consideration of all applications (refer to the fact sheet What is the public interest test? available on the Information and Privacy Commission website).

  4. Access application (also known as a formal application) for release of information

    If the information cannot be accessed through the above methods, an access application may be made. The relevant form is available here. Further information for applicants about the application process, including application fees, is available on the the Information and Privacy Commission website.

    All applications are referred to the Parliamentary Counsel for assessment and response within the time frames detailed in the legislation. The Parliamentary Counsel applies the 'public interest test' in consideration of all applications.

    Statistical information regarding formal applications is included in the PCO's Annual Report.

Contact details

Any request or queries in relation to GIPA and the PCO should be directed to:


Michelle Butler
Director, Governance and Operations
Telephone 9321 3381
Email michelle.butler@pco.nsw.gov.au

4 July 2015