Mick Batskos - Executive Director
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Welcome to FOI Solutions!

FOI Solutions is a unique legal and consulting firm. We provide solutions to government law problems, including in freedom of information (“FOI”) and privacy, encountered by government agencies at all levels in Australia.

We aim to provide the most:

  • cost effective
  • legally accurate
  • timely and responsive
  • reliable
  • practical and relevant,

legal and related services. We add value to government agencies needing assistance with government law issues including FOI and privacy.  FOI Solutions is an Accredited Specialist law firm in the area of government law (administrative law) with 2 of the 20 Victorian Accredited Specialists in Administrative Law. Find out more about the services FOI Solutions provides by browsing our web site.  To view our privacy policy, click here.

 

Announcements and Recent Developments

Victorian FOI Application Fee amendment

From 1 July 2018 the application fee for a Victorian FOI request will be $28.90Click here for more information. 

Be sure to change all your public material where application fees appear from 1 July.  You may also need to revisit any public material dealing with access charges which are tied to "fee units" to reflect the changes from 1 July 2018. FOI Solutions has prepared an access charges calculator in the form of an Excel spread sheet to help clients calculate charges associated with "fee units".  For a copy please email our office and ask for the 2018 Access Charges Calculator.

Please note that the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has previously ruled that if applicants accidentally pay the previous year's fee instead of the correct one, it is likely that that will be considered as sufficient compliance with the requirement for a request to be accompanied by an application fee.  Also remember that any decision not to waive or reduce the application fee on hardship grounds has from 1 December 2012 been reviewable by the FOI Commissioner.  Be sure to include appropriate review rights in any letter notifying an FOI applicant of such a decision. If you need any assistance in this regards, please contact us.

Annual 2018 VCAT summaries pre-order commenced

Our annual summaries of FOI and privacy decisions by VCAT for 2018 are now available for pre-order.  This will guarantee that you will get your copy as soon as possible after this year's case summaries are finalised early in 2019..  For more information or to pre-order your copy (and any back copies to 2004) click here.

Monthly VCAT decision subscription service

  • Why wait for an annual compilation of VCAT case summaries when it is available on a monthly basis?  You should seriously consider whether you are up to date with developments in FOI and privacy decisions and whether you want to be left behind. 
  • To help maintain your knowledge, FOI Solutions has developed a subscription service summarising VCAT FOI and privacy decisions each month
  • It will enable you to keep up to date on a month by month basis by having timely access to the most recent FOI and privacy decisions within days or weeks of them being made (rather than relying on our annual summary publication which is also available or even worse still, not finding out at all!!). 
  • The summaries are easy to read, practical and relevant to day to day handling of those areas.
  • Subscriptions are available on a 24, 12 or 6 monthly basis.  Click here for more information or to subscribe.

Customised Training sessions

If your agency needs customised training for in FOI, privacy, protected disclosures, how to make lawful statutory decisions and other government law topics, we can develop a session and present it at your premises.  For example, one of our most popular sessions is an overall training session making all staff aware of the obligations imposed on them and your agency under the FOI Act.  Please contact our Executive Director, Mick Batskos: mick@foisolutions.com.au  for a copy of our Catalogue of Training Sessions or to confidentially discuss your training needs.

Privacy Good Practice Guide and Checklist - a hit

FOI Solutions has prepared a Privacy Good Practice Guide and Checklist which has been a big hit with agencies with numerous government agencies purchasing and implementing the Guide and Checklist.  FOI Solutions developed the materials after repeal of the Information Privacy Act 2000 (Vic), the commencement of the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic) in September 2014, and the adoption by the Commissioner of Privacy by Design.  It helps agencies to re-visit their privacy compliance.  It :

  • assists organisations to review their privacy compliance
  • promotes high level organisational support for privacy compliance
  • helps agencies to identify areas of high risk and continuous improvement.

In short, it will enable you to get ahead of the privacy tsunami as organisations are expected to move to a more proactive model of privacy compliance.  For more information about our Privacy Good Practice Guide and Checklist, click here.

Privacy update by demand

Based on strong demand for privacy training, we have developed a great privacy overview session held over an extended lunchtime.  It is perfect as an introduction to privacy at all levels for all agency officers and staff, as well as serving as a good brush up on privacy concepts under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and health information privacy as well. For more infomation or to register for this high demand session, click here.

Administrative Assistance in FOI matters

If you need administrative assistance in FOI related matters and do not want to seek legal advice, our partner organisation, FOI Support has been created by Mick Batskos to provide the assistance you need. For more information click here or contact us (details below).  One of our Administrative Consultants will then contact you to discuss confidentially your immediate or longer term needs.

 

New privacy training sessions

FOI Solutions has developed two new privacy training sessions based on demand from our clients.  They are:

  • Understanding privacy in Victoria - a session suitable for all officers and employees of government agencies in Victoria
  • Exceptions to privacy when dealing with or performing law enforcement.

Details are being finalised. For more information click here.

 

FOI Solutions wins Specialist Government Law Firm of the Year - Australia

FOI Solutions is proud to announce that it has been awarded the 2016 Specialist Government Law Firm of the Year for Australia by the APAC Insider Legal Awards.  Our commitment to pre-eminent service provision to government clients in government law areas such as freedom of information, privacy, statutory interpretation, merits review, protected and public interest disclosures was recently recognised by APAC Insider.  FOI Solutions provides specialist legal services only to government agencies at all levels in Australia and is on Victorian State and Commonwealth legal service panels. 

Image result for apac insider awards

 

Avoiding embarrassment under Vic FOI Act

The role of the "principal officer" of an agency under the Victorian FOI Act is extremely important.  However, we find that often:

(a)   agencies do not know who their legally correct principal officer is; and/or

(b)   the principal officers of agencies are not aware of their legal duties, obligations, functions or powers.

FOI Solutions has developed a Principal Officer Information Kit to quickly and easily fix these problems and help agencies and their principal officers avoid embarassment. Click here for more information or to order your kit today.

Privacy Training vacuum being filled by FOI Solutions

We have been contacted by numerous clients seeking privacy training and have been informed that what was formerly Privacy Victoria no longer provides training to agencies.  FOI Solutions is perfectly placed to develop customised training for your agency or to provide a standard introductory package to reacquaint your officers with their obligations under privacy legislation. To confidentially discuss your organisation's needs or for a proposal for inhouse training for you, please contact our Executive Director, Mick Batskos: mick@foisolutions.com.au

FOI Solutions reappointed to Government Legal Services Panel

FOI Solutions is proud to announce that it has been reappointed to the Victorian State Government Legal Services Panel for legal services in the area of Administrative Law.  That means FOI Solutions is one of a select number of legal firms in Victoria that can continue to provide legal services to State Government Departments, Victoria Police and other statutory bodies that opt into the contractual arrangements from 1 March 2016.  FOI Solutions is a member of the existing panel arrangements.  Under those arrangements there are 22 other statutory authorities (apart from the Departments and Victoria Police) who receive legal services.  FOI Solutions has a longstanding history and strong reputation in relation to provision of legal services to the State Government and numerous government agencies in the area of administrative law.  FOI Solutions has been on the legal services panel since 2002 and has provided legal and related services only to government agencies since it commenced operations in 1998.  For more information about our appointment to the panel, see the Attorney-General's press release here.

FOI Solutions successful in landmark FOI decision on CCTV

The VCAT handed down a landmark decision considering for the first time the operation and effect of a certificate issued by the Acting Chief Commissioner of Police under s 29A(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (“FOI Act”) in support of a decision by the City of Melbourne to refuse access to CCTV footage. The Tribunal accepted submissions by FOI Solutions for the Council concluding that there are reasonable grounds for the claim by the Acting Chief Commissioner of Police that release of CCTV footage of the clocks area of Flinders Street Station would, or could reasonably be expected to, endanger the security of the Station and premises in the vicinity of the Station (under s 29A(1B)(a) of the FOI Act).  It affirmed the decision of the City of Melbourne to refuse access to the CCTV footage.  For more information about this case please do not hesitate to contact us.

FOI Solutions' protected disclosure procedures "best practice" says IBAC

FOI Solutions was involved in preparing protected disclosure procedures for 6 out of the 16 agencies which received a "gold star" rating by the recent IBAC review.  The IBAC made general recommendations to all public sector bodies that they would benefit from reviewing their procedures in light of the IBAC review. Consistent with our commitment to ongoing improvement, we worked closely with the IBAC to update and further improve our procedures for the benefit of our clients and potential clients.  The IBAC described our updated procedures as representing "a current 'best practice' model" for protected disclosure procedures (Apr, 2015).  If you have previously purchased our procedures and/or policies and would like to have them updated, or if you wish to purchase a copy of our updated procedures and ensure your agency has adopted a best practice model, click here

If you would like assistance with undertaking a review of your existing protected disclosure policies and procedures please contact Elisa Hesling, Associate on 9601 4111.

FOI Solutions Pre-Eminent Accredited Specialist Firm in Administrative Law

FOI Solutions has become the first law firm in Victoria to have two lawyers who are Accredited Specialists in Administrative Law.  Elisa Hesling, Senior Associate at FOI Solutions was one of only two lawyers in Victoria who obtained that qualification from the Law Institute of Victoria in 2015.  She now joins Mick Batskos, Executive Director of FOI Solutions as 2 of only 22 legal practitioners in Victoria who are Accredited Specialists in Administrative Law.  Congratulations to Elisa for this fine achievement.  For more information about the areas of law in which skills and knowledge must be demonstrated to become an Accredited Specialist in Administrative Law, click here.

Did you miss a training session?

Due to a variety of reasons you may have missed or not been aware of one of our training sessions, but would like to obtain a copy of the training materials.  In response to those types of scenarios and numerous requests, FOI Solutions is pleased to offer for purchase the training materials for some of our most popular sessions.  The training materials cover a range of freedom of information, privacy and other government law topics.  Each training material package includes an extensive paper, PowerPoint presentation and any other relevant materials for that session.  For more information, please click here.

Free Access Charges Calculator

There are a number access charges items payable under the Victorian FOI Act and Regulations which are calculable by reference to a "fee unit" under the Monetary Units Act 2004 (Vic).  To make life easier to calculate those charges for Victorian Government Agencies, FOI Solutions has developed a Free Access Charges Calculator which takes into account the increase in a "fee unit" from 1 July 2016.  It is available to our clients and other Victorian Government Agencies.  If you would like to have the Calculator emailed to you, please send an email to Roisin in our office providing your name, position, agency and contact details and we will send the calculator spreadsheet to you.

How to avoid breaching decision-making Professional Standards

Many Victorian government agencies unknowingly operate on the wrong assumption that their FOI decision-makers are properly authorised to make FOI decisions.  Are you sure your arrangements are legally compliant?  Are lawful FOI decisions being made?  In our experience numerous Victorian government agencies may not have proper decision making authority in place. 

To fix this FOI Solutions has developed an innovative, quick, low cost, fixed price solution.  For a fixed price, we will analyse and assess your current decison-making structure, provide a written advice on legal and Professional Standard compliance, and an appropriate document to rectify any non-compliance.  All of this within 3 business days of receiving full instructions. For more information or to place an order, please email Roisin@foisolutions.com.au

 

Mick Batskos FOI 'guru' says Herald Sun

On 23 September 2013, the Herald-Sun newspaper wrote an article about the expertise and knowledge of Executive Director of FOI Solutions and FOI Support, Mick Batskos:

"Lawyer Mick Batskos, who is a consultant to all levels of government on FoI ... is regarded in government circles as a "guru" with an encyclopedic knowledge of how best to use exemptions in the Act" and that government departments engaged him for his "special expertise".  They also noted that "Mr Batskos also represents agencies and authorities" apart from departments. (Herald Sun, 23 September 2013, p 11)

FOI Solutions Appointed to Commonwealth Government Legal Service Approved List

From 23 November 2012 FOI Solutions was appointed to the list of pre-approved legal service providers for Commonwealth Government Agencies in the areas of:

  • Government and Administrative Law; and
  • Related Dispute Resolution and Litigation.

This confirms the wide recognition of FOI Solutions as pre-eminent service providers in these areas and means that FOI Solutions can continue to provide expert legal services to Commonwealth Government agencies.  If you are from a Commonwealth Government agency and require legal assistance in any of the following areas, please do not hesitate to contact us:

  • Freedom of information
  • Privacy
  • Merits review
  • Judicial Review
  • Ombudsman related matters
  • Other administrative law matters.

Status of Commonwealth FOI Guidelines

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal ("AAT") has considered the status of Guidelines made by the Information Commissioner under s 93A of the Commonwealth FOI Act.  In particular it considered what is meant by the requirement to have regard to those Guidelines.  The AAT concluded in Re Francis and Department of Defence [2012] AATA 838 that although the Guidelines are not binding:

"...they provide assistance to those who administer the FOI Act, and decision-makers, including [the AAT], should apply the Guidelines unless there is a cogent reason to do otherwise."

This may have the unusual effect that when an application for review is made to the Information Commissioner, the Information Commissioner would similarly be obliged to apply the Guidelines, despite being the author of the Guidelines.

If you require any information about how this AAT decision affects your agency, please contact us.  Please note that our firm is on the Legal Services Multi-Use List.

 

Previous Announcements and Developments

State Government FOI Practice Notes drafted by FOI Solutions

FOI Solutions active in pro bono work

Award for Professional Excellence

FOI