For shades of Sir Humphrey, read on.
".. documents generated in connection with the conferral of honours do not ordinarily relate to matters of an administrative nature...While it is possible to conceive of exceptions to this general proposition (correspondence with the supplier of medals and insignia, or with a caterer providing refreshments at the awards ceremony come to mind), the documents in question do not relate to this sort of matter. If the Act was intended to apply to documents generated in connection with a wider view of the Governor-General’s functions, it would have done so using clear words.(Comment: An even simpler approach might be that "relates to matters of an administrative nature" means "relates to matters of management and administration" but we won't go there.)
In reaching his decision Deputy President Hack drew on the decision of Justice Gray in Bienstein v Family Court of Australia, a Federal Court case involving s 5 and the same FOI limitation as it applies to documents held by the courts. The Deputy President saw similarities between the functions of the Governor General in making decisions on award nominees, and those of a judge exercising a judicial function. In both cases closed doors were necessary.
22. Choices have to be made between the nominees, and unsuccessful nominees may be upset when they are overlooked. Making those choices is akin to a judicial function that involves the exercise of delicate judgement. The Governor-General has the benefit of the advice of the Council of the Order when making her decisions; the Council is comprised of independent persons who bring a range of experiences and perspectives to bear on their work. That frank advice is essential to the process. While judges give reasons for their opinions, the decision in Bienstein confirms the courts are not expected to expose internal documents that might compromise the integrity of the process in the public mind, if only because they could be misunderstood or muddy the waters. That approach applies equally to documents held by the Official Secretary in relation to the system of honours.
23. The award of honours remains part of the Governor-General’s function, and – like a good deal of the work of the Governor-General – that process has occurred behind closed doors for good reason.
Betty Oldham: Look, Sir Humphrey, whatever we ask the Minister, he says is an administrative question for you, and whatever we ask you, you say is a policy question for the Minister. How do you suggest we find out what is going on?Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes, yes, yes, I do see that there is a real dilemma here. In that, while it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of Ministers and administration as a responsibility of Officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy.