Reasons for Decision 2017

O1511-169 - Patrick Billings & Department of Health and Human Services – 20 January 2017

On review, Mr Billings (a journalist on ‘The Mercury’ newspaper) requested the full Operational Review in relation to Ambulance Tasmania’s State Communications Centre power failure and shutdown in July 2015.   The Ombudsman determined that parts of the Operational Review were subject to exemption under s35 of the Right to Information Act 2009 - internal deliberative document - and that It was contrary to the public interest to disclose this information.

O1502-051 - Timothy Kirkwood & Tasmanian Planning Commission – 14 February 2017

Mr Kirkwood (Manager of Southern Midlands Council) requested information provided by a third party to the Commission outside of its usual hearing/determination process. The Ombudsman was satisfied that any such information held in respect of the third party related to the Commission’s ‘official business’ and hence was subject to the Right to Information Act 2009. However, all such information was exempt under s36 and it was contrary to the public interest to disclose this.

The decision also explored the interplay between information  ‘otherwise available’ under s12(3)(c) of the Right to Information Act 2009 and information (written evidence and submission documents) subject to an obligation to be made public under s12 of the Tasmanian Planning Commission Act 1997.

O1506-060  - Mr Michael Atkin & Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Wildlife and Environment -  1 March 2017

Mr Atkin (a journalist with the ABC’s 7.30 Report) requested information concerning a third party’s mussel enterprise, including personal information. The Ombudsman determined that the remaining undisclosed information was exempt in accordance with s27, s35 and s36 of the Right to Information Act 2009.   On considering the public interest, the Ombudsman found that the s35 information should remain exempt, whist in the unusual circumstances of this case, it was not contrary to the public interest to disclose the personal information in question.

O1610-034 - A and Tasmania Police - 23 March 2017

The information at issue was whether the will of the applicant’s late parent should be disclosed to them. This decision discusses the requirements of s36 (personal information of a person) of the Right to Information Act 2009 and the intersection it has with the Wills Act 2008. As these Acts appear at face value to contradict each other, the issue of implied repeal by later statute is also considered.

O1511-046 - Michael Atkin & Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment - 20 April 2017

Mr Atkin (a journalist with the ABC) requested information in relation to a fish mortality event in Macquarie Harbour that occurred between 1 December 2014 and 28 February 2015.  Some laboratory report information as to the probable cause of the fish mortality event was released by the Department on internal review. The Ombudsman determined that information relating to the reporting of the fish mortality event by the relevant enterprise to the Department was exempt under s37 of the Right to Information Act 2009 but that, in terms of s33, it was not contrary to the public interest to disclose this.  By contrast, whilst the remaining laboratory report information was exempt under s39, it was contrary to the public interest to disclose any further information from this report.

The disclosed information has been published on the Department’s Disclosure Log.

O1502-105  Laura Kelly OBO Environment Tasmania & the Environmental Protection Agency – 9 June 2017

Environment Tasmania requested information about Huon Aquaculture’s Lonnavale Hatchery and its effect on the Russell River. Some information was released but the EPA considered that all other information was exempt under s39(1)  of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Information obtained in confidence) in the first instance because it had been voluntarily provided by Huon.  On review the Ombudsman determined that none of the remaining information was exempt under s39(1) as disclosure of the information would not be reasonably likely to impair the ability of a public authority or Minister to obtain similar information in the future: s39(1)(b). However,  much of the information was found to be exempt under s37(1) (Information relating to business affairs of third party) and, whilst it was contrary to the public interest to release raw monitoring data,  the Ombudsman determined that it was not contrary to release all other information.

The released information has been published on the Department’s Disclosure Log.

O1702-151 Richard Baines (ABC) & Department of Health and Human Services -  27 June 2017

The applicant sought information about a for-profit residential care provider, including payments made to it by the Department. On review the Ombudsman affirmed that much of the information was exempt under s27, s35, s36 and s39 of the Right to Information Act 2009 and that it was contrary to the public interest to disclose this information. Despite the claims of the Department, no information was found to be exempt under s37. However, some information was to be disclosed, including payments made by the Department to the provider, subject to redaction of identifying personal information, as well as factual information contained in information which might otherwise be exempt under s27(1) or s35(1) of the Act.  The Department submitted that certain information could not be disclosed by virtue of either s16, s103 or s111A of the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997 Act but the Ombudsman was not generally satisfied of this, considering that the Department was taking too broad a view of the purpose of that Act, although some information was found to be subject to s111A and was not to be disclosed.

O1411-123 Bryan Green & Department of Treasury and Finance - 6 July 2017

The applicant sought information about briefings the Department had prepared in relation to GST distribution as a result of the Australian Government budget.   On review the Ombudsman affirmed that much of the information was exempt under s27, s35, and s36 of the Right to Information Act 2009 and that it was contrary to the public interest to disclose this information.  Despite the claims of the Department, names of staff who had prepared and cleared the briefings were not maintained as exempt.