In the case of Schapelle Corby, requests were submitted over a lengthy period, of five or six years. They were submitted on behalf of Schapelle Corby herself, so that her own personal data could be returned. Others were later submitted from relevant third parties, and through different individual citizens, in order to avoid target awareness of the huge investigative exercise which was underway.
After initial submissions and returns, follow-ups and appeals were undertaken, to seek and obtain further information. For every government department and agency at all relevant to the Schapelle Corby case, one or more such requests were pursued to their ultimate outcome. Supplementary requests were also submitted, again by different individuals, to obtain data pertaining to indirectly related aspects which might yield complementary background data.
The comprehensive and carefully executed project plan embraced the heart of the establishment, and included the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Attorney-General’s Department, the ACMA, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the AFP, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Transport and Regional Services, the ACLEI, the Prime Minister’s & Cabinet Office, the OAIC, the Australian Crime Commission, the ABC, and a multitude of other institutions and agencies.
Eventually, a number of departments did recognize that this exercise was in process. It is a self-evident fact that the evidence obtained during the early years was substantially more complete and less censored than that obtained in recent years. It is a self-evident fact that pursuance of the requests became increasingly difficult, with prolonged delays and intentional blockages becoming frequent.
In one infamous case, a request was taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), with Australia’s top security officer telling the court that disclosure of the data would create a serious impasse with the United States of America, and place the provision of “security intelligence and threat warnings” to Australia at risk. The censorship of this particular FOI request alone cost the taxpayer over $1 million in processing, legal, and other fees.
In addition, a significant volume of information was collected from a variety of non-governmental sources, as evidence was accumulated which might help to enhance the picture already painted by the now enormous FOI cache. These included direct interviews, audio and video recordings, legal records, and Internet meta-data, with researchers visiting locations as diverse as London and Bangkok.
Overall, this operation almost certainly constituted the largest and most wide-scale exercise of FOI based information gathering ever to have been undertaken within the Commonwealth of Australia.
To demonstrate the scale of this, sample schedules are provided below from just one of the requests made to each of three example institutions (the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the AFP). Whilst these are only three from the many dozens of requests, they help to illustrate the detail and granularity of the investigation.
To fully appreciate how insightful the actual data returns are in documenting critical events, and revealing the decisions and motives of those involved, the reports and exhibits published across this website present many of the retrieved items themselves. Correspondence, cables, transcripts, briefing notes, emails; these show precisely what occurred, and who did and said what.
This is incontrovertible. It is the raw unedited data which proves precisely what happened during the period in question in the Schapelle Corby case.