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Part 8: Privacy and access to information

8.1 Overview

There are many independent organisations that may be able to help you with a problem that you cannot solve directly with Revenue NSW:

The NSW Ombudsman can consider complaints about the fines process or the service provided by Revenue NSW, and

The Information and Privacy Commission can deal with complaints about a breach of your privacy or your right to access information held by Revenue NSW.

8.2 The NSW Ombudsman

The Ombudsman can investigate or otherwise deal with complaints about NSW public sector agencies including Revenue NSW and agencies that issue penalty notices.

The Ombudsman generally expects you to complain to the agency first. You need to give them a chance to take the action you want or explain why they won’t before complaining to the Ombudsman. If the matter is urgent you should call the Ombudsman first to discuss your complaint. The easiest way to lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman is online. Go to: www.ombo.nsw.gov.au, click on the ‘Complaints’ tab, then the ‘Make a complaint’ link, and follow the instructions to make a complaint online.

You should include copies of all relevant documents with your complaint.

You can complain to the Ombudsman about administrative conduct, including:

  • Decisions not in accordance with the legislation, policy or Revenue NSW review guidelines
  • Delay in taking action or making a decision
  • Unreasonable or inconsistent decisions
  • Not providing reasons for a decision
  • Unreasonable enforcement action
  • Failure to contact you or reply
  • Not doing what they said they would do
  • Errors or mistakes
  • Not telling you the outcome of your complaint and
  • Poor client service.

The above are examples only. You should contact the Ombudsman for advice about whether or not they can help with your complaint:

The Ombudsman has wide discretion to decide when to act on a complaint. The Ombudsman assesses complaints on a case by case basis and will consider whether an alternative and satisfactory means of redress is available to you. The Ombudsman is not an alternative to going to court and may decline to take action if it is considered going to court is the most appropriate way for you to resolve your complaint.

Note

The Ombudsman cannot review or investigate court decisions.  If you have a complaint about a court decision, you can write to the Chief Magistrate of the Local Courts or the Community Relations Division of the Department of Communities and Justice. [* see Part 9 for contact details]

8.3 Privacy

Agencies such as Revenue NSW and Transport for NSW collect and use personal information about people. In most situations they are required to comply with information protection principles set out in the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 (NSW) (PPIPA). If the information collected is health information, then an agency must comply with health information privacy protection principles set out in the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW) (HRIP). Fact sheets which summarise these principles can be found on the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) of NSW website. There are some circumstances where government agencies do not have to comply with information privacy principles. For more information about this you can contact the privacy contact officer in the agency concerned or the Information and Privacy Commission of NSW on 1800 472 679 or send an email to ipcinfo@ipc.nsw.gov.au.

If a NSW Government agency has failed to comply with their legal obligations in relation to your privacy, you can make a complaint. A complaint must be in writing and made within six months of becoming aware of the conduct you believe breached your privacy. A longer time period may be allowed in some cases.

The first step will generally be to request an internal review by the agency concerned. If you are unhappy with the outcome of the internal review, you can make a complaint to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) which can make a legally binding decision.

More information about your privacy review rights can be found on the Information and Privacy Commission NSW website.

8.4 Access to information

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW)(GIPA) provides a general right to see personal and other information from NSW Government departments and agencies.

There is a general presumption under the GIPA Act that information should be released, unless there is an “overriding public interest against disclosure”. The public interest considerations which might prevent disclosure are set out in Section 14 and Schedules 1 and 2 of the GIPA Act.

The first step in accessing information is to contact the agency concerned to see if the information can be accessed informally or is already publicly available. If that approach is not successful you can fill in the access to information application form available on their website and send it to the government department or agency you want the information from. The application fee is normally $30, which in certain circumstances can be waived or reduced. A department or agency can also charge a processing fee of $30 per hour, which again can be reduced in certain circumstances such as financial hardship.

If the department or agency refuses your GIPA request (some of it or all of it) you have a right to an internal review by the department or agency. Alternatively, or if you are still not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review, you can request an external review, by making an application to the Information Commissioner or the NCAT. An application for review by the Information Commissioner or the NCAT must be made within 40 working days of you being notified of the decision to refuse access.

If however a review has been conducted by the Information Commissioner, then you have a further 20 working days from notification of the Commissioner’s decision to appeal to the NCAT.

Revenue NSW has additional information about accessing information on their website.

For more information and factsheets in community languages about the GIPA, contact the Office of Information Commissioner NSW on 1800 472 679 or visit: www.ipc.nsw.gov.au.