The public service is revolting against reforms brought in by the federal government to make it easier and cheaper for people to use freedom-of-information laws.

Nearly all public service departments have made a submission to a review of the laws saying the changes have created more work than they can handle and question whether the changes are delivering ''value for money'' for the government.

''The first word that comes to mind is blowback,'' lawyer and FOI expert Peter Timmins said.

''The general thrust of most of them is to bring into question the reforms of 2010.''

Former minister John Faulkner was a champion of the changes to FOI laws that abolished the $30 application fee and were supposed to make government processes more transparent and accessible.

But the public service is grumbling about the time and resources it takes to deal with the requests, which have increased since the changes were brought in.

The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism says it simply does not accept ''substantial FOI requests'' because it does not have the resources to deal with them.

''Less welcome has been the upsurge in applications for complex and sensitive material from politicians, journalists, non-profit organisations, students and lawyers,'' the department's acting chief lawyer, Michael Sassella, said.

''We have found journalists, in particular, were making numerous requests on a single day.''

Many departments - including Resources, Energy and Tourism - are pushing for longer statutory periods in which to respond to applications.

While departments generally support the abolition of the initial $30 application fee, many want to be able to charge more if someone asks for a review of a decision.

Some would also like a cap on the number of FOI applications an individual is allowed to make in a single year.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade questioned whether the government was getting ''value for money'' from the changes.

In its submission DFAT said it had ''no concerns with the value-for-money proposition in relation to personal FOI requests by members of the general public'', but said ''questions of value'' could be raised about applications made by other applicants such as journalists, lawyers and not-for-profit organisations.

Mr Timmins said many members of the public service still tried to keep information from being released for fear of the political fallout.

''There are still decisions that err on the side of excessive secrecy,'' Mr Timmins said.

''There's a perspective that all this [the reforms] has gone too far.''

Recommendations on possible changes to the laws are being drawn up by former senior public servant Allan Hawke who will deliver his report to the government by the end of April.

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