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EasyCount FOI request updated 11 July 2016

Quick links: all documents so far [zip] · documents within scope · how the money is being spent

Supporters' links

Australian Disclosure Logs
Alex Sadleir
Open Australia Foundation - hack democracy
James Polley
Open Australia Foundation
A Canberra Makerspace
Linux Australia
Linux Australia
Pirate PArty signet
Pirate Party Australia
John Dalton
John Dalton


I am mjec, a lawyer and nerd from Hobart, Tasmania.

The AEC is responsible for counting Senate votes at each election.

Given the complexity of the count, this is done using a computer, in accordance with the Electoral Act. This software was developed in-house at the AEC.

Aware of that, and given the broad definition of document in the Freedom of Information Act I put in a FOI request for the source code of the software used to conduct Senate counts.

I ultimately lost this case in a decision dated 11 December 2015.


These documents are provided in PDF format for consistency and ease of reference. Documents produced by me before IC review are are available in plain text format on the Right To Know request page. If you would like any document in a different format please email me and I will do my best to help. The AEC has refused to provide documents in any other format.

11 December 2015
AAT decision
31 October 2014
AEC statement of facts, information and contentions
20 October 2014
OAIC decision that I am not a vexatious FOI applicant
15 September 2014
Government response to Senate order for production of documents
15 July 2014
Government response to Senate order for production of documents
10 July 2014
Senate order for production of documents
2 July 2014
AAT acknowledgement of application
30 June 2014
Application to AAT
25 June 2014
OAIC letter closing under s 54W(b)
13-24 June 2014
Correspondence betwen OAIC and me
13 June 2014
OAIC letter intending to close under s 54W(b)
5 June 2014
Submission to IC review from me
6 May 2014
Submission to IC review from AEC
20 Mar 2014
Acknowledgement from OAIC
5 Feb 2014
Request for IC review from me and attached letter from Chris Neugebauer
9 Dec 2013
Refusal decision from AEC
8 Nov 2013
Internal review request from me
5 Nov 2013
Refusal decision from AEC
4 Oct 2013
Initial request from me

Summary of positions

The AEC's position is that EasyCount contains a trade secret, namely the algorithm used to count Senate votes. On this basis they have refused access to the documents. Their position is that the trade secret extends to the titles of the documents and so they have refused to provide a schedule of identified documents.

My position is that there can be no secret in the algorithm, because it is public, and that the source code is in any case not commercially valuable within the meaning of the FOI Act (i.e. its release would not cause substantial commercial harm to the AEC). I also take the position that in any case there is no trade secret in the titles of the relevant documents.

The AEC refused this request initially and again on internal review. The OAIC closed the matter under s 54W(b) of the Freedom of Information Act, meaning that it was to be determined by the AAT.

I applied to the AAT for review on 30 June 2014. You can find the AAT's record of the matter through their eCaseSearch facility by searching for AAT File Number 2014/3361.

Other links

Hacker News discussion (16 July 2014)
Media release from Senator Lee Rhiannon (NSW, Greens) (16 July 2014)
Senator Rhiannon's media release regarding her motion for release of the code
Peter Timmins blog post (7 July 2014)
Discussion about the AEC's application to have me declared a vexatious applicant
Vanessa Teague and Raj Gore submission to JSCEM (7 Mar 2014)
This submission refers to and endorses this request at page 8 (see also pages 3, 5).
AEC submission to JSCEM (7 Feb 2003)
Some information about AEC Senate Count software entitled EasyCount is available on pages 24/25 (thanks @maxious).


Thanks to all those who have supported this project, financially and otherwise. Those include, alphabetically:

26 anonymous donors, Aaron, Adam Harvey, Adam Thomas, Alan Isherwood, Alex Jago, Alexander Platz, Alistair Campbell, Amanda Rainey, Amelia Higgs, Amos Shapira, Andrew Bettison, Andrew Donnellan, Andrew Mc, Andy Thompson, Anthony David, Antonina Lewis, Arkady G., Ben Bligh, Ben Fairless, Ben Williams, Benjamin Nizette, Benno Rice, Brenda Moon, Brendan Molloy, Brian Holt, Bryce Roney, Cameron McCormack, Cameron Moon, Cameron Price-Austin, Campbell Crazyfun Nicol, Caspar Fairhall, Charles Gutjahr, Chris Bisset, Chris Fulton, Chris Gentle, Chris Henderson, Chris Hibbard, Christopher Neugebauer, Clara, Damon Swayn, Dan Andrews, Dan Tyrrell, Daniel Harvey, Daniel Hoey, Danielle Quinn, Dave Hall, Dave Slutzkin, David Gibson, David Marrott, Derek Adams, Doug Burbidge, Drew Mayo, Emma Roberts, Eric Rose, Firstdog Onthemoon, Frank Connell, Geoffrey Roberts, Glenn Tweedie, Gordon Freeman, Grant Diffey, Guy King, Hans Borgar, Henare Degan, Indi Johnston, Jack Kerosene, Jack Scott, James Brooks, James Cunningham, James Greenhalgh, James Polley, James Turnbull, James Wigley, Jason, Jeff Miles, Jeff Waugh, Jeremy Visser, Jillian Harrison, Jimbob, Joel Green, John Chrisoulakis, John Dalton, John Kristensen, Jonno Downes, Jonny Scholes, Josh Stewart, Joshua Chubb, Joshua Cubbin, Julian Mallett, Julien Goodwin, Justin Giersch, Kathy Reid, Kayne Richens, Kevin Murray, Kim Heap, Kristie Walker, Kristof Wing, Kymble Spriggs, Lachlan Musicman, Laura Nilssen, Leo Febey, Linda Emmerton, Linux Australia, Lorant Stary, Louis Matthews, Malcolm McPherson, Mark Nottingham, Mat Farrington, Mathew McBride, Matt Stevenson, Max McHenry, maxious, Michael Carmody, Michael Fitzgerald, Michael Harris, Michael Hellessey, Michael JAMES, Michael Van Delft, Myk Dowling, Naomi Gunton, Nathan Cockroft, Nathan Jones, Neill Cox, Nic Crouch, Nichola White, nick ham, Olivia Ridley, Oscar Barrett, Owen Cameron, Paris Buttfield-Addison, Pat McConville, Patrick Coleman, Patrick Sefton, Paul Davis, Paul Gear, Paul Parker, Pearce H. Delphin, Penny Sharpe, Peter Hardy, Peter Lawler, Peter Runge, Peter Tonoli, Phill Wall, Potatomonster, Rachel Keith, Richard Stephens, Richard Thompson, Rick Chen, rob kearey, Robert Mibus, Robert, Roger Barnes, Ross Hill, Russell Keith-Magee, Russell Stuart, Rusty Russell, Ryan Kelly, Samuel Leslie, Scott Ludlam, Sean Purdon, Shane King, Silvana, Simon Sharwood, Simon Stanton, simon, Skye Smith, Somebody Sometimes, Steve Elliott, Steve Pratt, Stew, Stuart Hawkes, Stuart Reeh, Theo Wadsley, Thomas James, Tim Bell, Tim Coronel, Tim Hayward, Tim Vernum, Tim Webster, Toby Murray, Tom Sulston, Tom Whiteley, Trent Yarwood, Trevor Harding, VirtualWolf, Willem van Ketwich and 7 others.