RTI Decisions since 2016

B and Department of Justice (March 2021)

B made an application for assessed disclosure of information to the Department of Justice. In that application, B sought information pertaining to declared conflicts of interest by the Chief Executive Officer of the Integrity Commission. The Department did not hold this information, so transferred the request to the Integrity Commission pursuant to s14. Due to the subject matter of the request for disclosure, the Integrity Commission delegated Ms Amanda Russell, the then Deputy Secretary, Corporate, Strategy and Policy at the Department of Justice to respond to the application. Ms Russell did not provide a decision within the time frame required under the Act, so B sought external review due to the deemed refusal of his application under s45(1)(f). Under s6, the Integrity Commission is an excluded body to which the Act does not apply, except for information related to the administration of that body. The Ombudsman determined that the information B sought did not relate to the administration of the Integrity Commission. Therefore, the Act did not apply to the information and B was not entitled to it.

B and Department of Justice (March 2021) (PDF, 85.0 KB)

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (August 2020)

Mr Carlo Di Falco requested information from Tasmania Police relating to gun crimes. Tasmania Police provided some information, but refused the bulk of the information under s19. Information was also refused as matters were currently before the Court and also because of legal professional privilege.

The Ombudsman upheld Tasmania Police's use of s19 on the basis that the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert the Police Service's resources from its other work. The Ombudsman also found similarly regarding information which could not be produced using the normal computer hardware and software and technical expertise of Tasmania Police. It was refused pursuant to s10.

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.2 MB)

William Yabsley and Department of Justice (December 2019)

Mr Yabsley asked for a range of information from the Supreme Court of Tasmania. This was in relation to a matter that involved him. The Department refused some of the request on the basis it was already available to Mr Yabsley for a reasonable fee. It also refused the other parts on the basis the Supreme Court is an excluded body under s6. The Ombudsman upheld this decision.

William Yabsley and Department of Justice (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (November 2021)

Ms Camille Bianchi is a freelance journalist who sought information from the Department of Health regarding the response to allegations of misconduct from its former employee at Ward 4K of the Launceston General Hospital, nurse James Griffin. The Department released a decision on 22 July 2020 on the 104 pages of information it located responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, determining that all documents were exempt pursuant to ss35, 36 and 39 of the Right to Information Act 2009. Ms Bianchi then sought external review of this decision.

During the external review process, the Department reconsidered some of its proposed exemptions and located additional documents responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, which had not previously been assessed.

The Ombudsman ordered that:
* Exemptions claimed by the Department under ss30 and 39 are not made out;
* Some information was validly exempt under s35 but the release of the majority was not contrary to the public interest;
* The personal information of patients, members of the public, Department staff raising concerns about Mr Griffin and Ward 4K staff was exempt under s36, except job titles for Ward 4K staff;
* The personal information of Mr Griffin, except his personal address, telephone number or date of birth, and the work related personal information of other Department staff, union representatives and consultants is not exempt under s36 and is to be released to Ms Bianchi; and
* Some documents were out of scope of the request or publicly available and not required to be released.

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (August 2020)

Mr Carlo Di Falco requested information from Tasmania Police relating to gun crimes. Tasmania Police provided some information, but refused the bulk of the information under s19. Information was also refused as matters were currently before the Court and also because of legal professional privilege.

The Ombudsman upheld Tasmania Police's use of s19 on the basis that the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert the Police Service's resources from its other work. The Ombudsman also found similarly regarding information which could not be produced using the normal computer hardware and software and technical expertise of Tasmania Police. It was refused pursuant to s10.

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Richard Webb and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (January 2020)

Mr Webb sought information from the Department in relation to the development proposal on Halls Island, Lake Malbena. The request sought a range of information that primarily included some leases for Halls Island and some documents to the relevant Minister.

One of the core parts of this review was whether or not the two leases sought for Halls Island was information obtained in confidence as claimed by the Department. The Ombudsman overturned this in full on the basis the Department's own lease documents could not constitute information obtained in confidence that, if released, would impair its ability to obtain similar information in the future.

Richard Webb and DPIPWE (PDF, 1.5 MB)

William Yabsley and Department of Justice (December 2019)

Mr Yabsley asked for a range of information from the Supreme Court of Tasmania. This was in relation to a matter that involved him. The Department refused some of the request on the basis it was already available to Mr Yabsley for a reasonable fee. It also refused the other parts on the basis the Supreme Court is an excluded body under s6. The Ombudsman upheld this decision.

William Yabsley and Department of Justice (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022)

Mr Graham Murray is a supporter of the proposal to construct and operate a cable car on kunanyi/Mount Wellington in Hobart. On 22 August 2018, Mr Murray submitted a request for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the City of Hobart (Council). He sought information on a range of issues regarding the cable car project.

On 27 September 2018, Council released a large amount of information to Mr Murray, but refused to assess part of his application under s10 and claimed a further 324 pages were exempt pursuant to ss31, 35, 36 and 39. A second decision was released on 24 October 2018, following consultation under s36(2), and a further part of Mr Murray’s request was refused under s19. A final decision was released on 9 November 2018, which released further information and refused the remaining part of Mr Murray’s request, as there was no recognised list of ‘cable car or anti cable car websites’ to enable the information to be collated. Mr Murray then sought external review of all of Council’s decisions.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • He had no power to review Council’s decision under s10 and it remained unchanged;
  • Council’s use of s19 was affirmed;
  • Council’s use of section 31 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s35 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s36 was affirmed; and
  • Council's use of s39 was varied.

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022) (PDF, 255.9 KB)

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (August 2020)

Mr Carlo Di Falco requested information from Tasmania Police relating to gun crimes. Tasmania Police provided some information, but refused the bulk of the information under s19. Information was also refused as matters were currently before the Court and also because of legal professional privilege.

The Ombudsman upheld Tasmania Police's use of s19 on the basis that the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert the Police Service's resources from its other work. The Ombudsman also found similarly regarding information which could not be produced using the normal computer hardware and software and technical expertise of Tasmania Police. It was refused pursuant to s10.

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (November 2021)

Ms Camille Bianchi is a freelance journalist who sought information from the Department of Health regarding the response to allegations of misconduct from its former employee at Ward 4K of the Launceston General Hospital, nurse James Griffin. The Department released a decision on 22 July 2020 on the 104 pages of information it located responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, determining that all documents were exempt pursuant to ss35, 36 and 39 of the Right to Information Act 2009. Ms Bianchi then sought external review of this decision.

During the external review process, the Department reconsidered some of its proposed exemptions and located additional documents responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, which had not previously been assessed.

The Ombudsman ordered that:
* Exemptions claimed by the Department under ss30 and 39 are not made out;
* Some information was validly exempt under s35 but the release of the majority was not contrary to the public interest;
* The personal information of patients, members of the public, Department staff raising concerns about Mr Griffin and Ward 4K staff was exempt under s36, except job titles for Ward 4K staff;
* The personal information of Mr Griffin, except his personal address, telephone number or date of birth, and the work related personal information of other Department staff, union representatives and consultants is not exempt under s36 and is to be released to Ms Bianchi; and
* Some documents were out of scope of the request or publicly available and not required to be released.

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Lawrence Archer and Dorset Council (June 2021)

In June 2018, former councillor Mr Lawrence Archer made an application to the Dorset Council for assessed disclosure. He sought a list of the monthly allowances and expenses incurred by individual elected members of Council, and copies of bank statements for Council credit cards used by the Mayor and General Manager.

Council refused to provide information regarding the councillors’ allowances and expenses, claiming that it was available to Mr Archer at a point in time (before he left Council) in what was known as Audit Panel papers.  The Council refused to provide information requested about expenses outside of the Audit Papers, as it indicated that this was not able to be provided accurately. It also refused to provide the credit card statements pursuant to s20(b), as it stated that this was a vexatious request.

The Ombudsman determined that he had no jurisdiction to review Council’s decision to refuse allowance and expense information under s12(3)(c)(i). However, he found that the remainder of Mr Archer’s application should be reassessed in accordance with the provisions of the Act, as s20(b) did not apply and other information appeared to be able to be extracted and provided in accordance with s18(3).

Lawrence Archer and Dorset Council (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Rhiana Whitson and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) (May 2021)

Ms Whitson (a journalist for the ABC) sought information from the Department about the death of 16 polo ponies in January 2018 which were transported on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. The Department refused to provide any information responsive to the request, considering it fully exempt pursuant to s30(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act 2009, as information relating to the enforcement of the law, on the basis of an ongoing investigation and potential prosecutions relating to the incident. Since the Department’s original decision, charges have been laid under the Animal Welfare Act 1993 in relation to the incident and their prosecution remains ongoing.

The Ombudsman predominantly upheld the Department’s decision but found that some information was not exempt, consistent with a previous external review decision in Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (March 2019). This information was nonetheless not required to be provided to Ms Whitson, as it was otherwise available under s12(3)(c)(i).

Rhiana Whitson and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) (PDF, 162.3 KB)

Adam Stanway and Tasmania Police (May 2021)

Mr Stanway sought information from Tasmania Police regarding its classification of the Warwick WFA1 bolt action rifle as a prohibited firearm and membership of its Firearms Categorisation Assessment Committee [FCAC]. Tasmania Police released some information regarding the decision to classify the WFA1 as a prohibited firearm, but claimed other information exempt under s35 or s36. Tasmania Police released information regarding most FCAC members, but not one who it had engaged from another jurisdiction. Tasmania Police decided that member's information was exempt under s34 and/or s36.

During the Ombudsman's external review, Tasmania Police agreed to the release of that member's name and biographic information, after his consent. The Ombudsman therefore determined that information was not exempt under s34 or s36. That had been Mr Stanway's main concern.

Mr Stanway agreed he did not require personal information of FCAC members contained in emails between them, beyond that already released to him by Tasmania Police or by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth). Due to that and s12(3)(c)(i), the Ombudsman was able to finalise the application on the basis of its scope and without determining the exemptions claimed by Tasmania Police pursuant to s35.

Adam Stanway and Tasmania Police (PDF, 243.7 KB)

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (February 2021)

Mr Stott requested information from Hydro Tasmania ('Hydro') regarding the fault in the Basslink cable which caused it to shut down in 2015. Hydro released some information to Mr Stott but refused the majority of his request on the basis that it considered that: the information was already publicly available (s12); the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert Hydro’s resources from its other work (s19); or the information was exempt (under a section noted below). Mr Stott sought external review of this decision.

Late in the external review process, Mr Stott agreed to redaction of some personal information relating to personnel internal or external to Hydro. Hence, while the reasons consider exemptions claimed under s36, ultimately a s36 review decision was not required.

The Ombudsman found that:

1. He does not have the power to review a decision under s12 to refuse to provide information which is already publicly available.

2. Hydro had not complied with the requirements of s19 to give Mr Stott a reasonable opportunity to consult with it to refine his request to a form which would not substantially and unreasonably divert its resources. Mr Stott’s request was returned to Hydro to reassess under the Act.

3. Exemptions claimed under s31 (legal professional privilege) should be varied, releasing additional documents to Mr Stott.

4. Exemptions claimed under s37 (information relating to the business affairs of a third party) and s38 (information relating to the business affairs of a public authority) were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

5. The exemption claimed over a document under s39 (information obtained in confidence) was not made out, but the document was otherwise exempt under s30 (information relating to the enforcement of the law).

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (October 2019)

Mr Atkin, an ABC journalist, submitted a request to Tasmania Police seeking information in relation to the gun trafficking trade in Tasmania in February 2015. Nearly 300 pages of information were claimed exempt under a range of different sections given the sensitivity of the information. The application of the various sections was largely supported by this office with a few minor changes to Tasmania Police’s decision.

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Atkin and Forestry Tasmania (Sustainable Timber Tasmania)

After the 2014 state election, Mr Atkin, a Tasmanian-based journalist for the ABC at that time, submitted an application for assessed disclosure seeking information that covered emails and other briefings about FSC certification. This included an Incoming Government Briefing (IGB).

This primarily considers the exemption of the IGB and the decision of this office to release parts of it as purely factual information.

Atkin and Forestry Tasmania (Sustainable Timber Tasmania) (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Damien Matcham and Brighton Council (January 2018)

Mr Matcham requested seven years' worth of Council related credit card statements and several years worth of the General Manager's diary appointments among other things.  Council refused the bulk of the decision under s19 on the basis the work required would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of its resources from its other work.  Some of the information, it claimed, was already publicly available and it subsequently refused to release it under s12 of the Act.  The use of s19 was varied - set aside for the credit card statements, but affirmed for the diary entries.  A refusal under s12 is not a reviewable decision under the Act.

Damien Matcham and Brighton Council  (PDF, 1.0 MB)

Timothy Kirkwood and Tasmanian Planning Commission (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.

Timothy Kirkwood and Tasmanian Planning Commission (PDF, 722.1 KB)

Atkin and Forestry Tasmania (Sustainable Timber Tasmania)

After the 2014 state election, Mr Atkin, a Tasmanian-based journalist for the ABC at that time, submitted an application for assessed disclosure seeking information that covered emails and other briefings about FSC certification. This included an Incoming Government Briefing (IGB).

This primarily considers the exemption of the IGB and the decision of this office to release parts of it as purely factual information.

Atkin and Forestry Tasmania (Sustainable Timber Tasmania) (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Lawrence Archer and Dorset Council (June 2021)

In June 2018, former councillor Mr Lawrence Archer made an application to the Dorset Council for assessed disclosure. He sought a list of the monthly allowances and expenses incurred by individual elected members of Council, and copies of bank statements for Council credit cards used by the Mayor and General Manager.

Council refused to provide information regarding the councillors’ allowances and expenses, claiming that it was available to Mr Archer at a point in time (before he left Council) in what was known as Audit Panel papers.  The Council refused to provide information requested about expenses outside of the Audit Papers, as it indicated that this was not able to be provided accurately. It also refused to provide the credit card statements pursuant to s20(b), as it stated that this was a vexatious request.

The Ombudsman determined that he had no jurisdiction to review Council’s decision to refuse allowance and expense information under s12(3)(c)(i). However, he found that the remainder of Mr Archer’s application should be reassessed in accordance with the provisions of the Act, as s20(b) did not apply and other information appeared to be able to be extracted and provided in accordance with s18(3).

Lawrence Archer and Dorset Council (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Robin Smith and Launceston City Council (April 2021)

Mr Smith applied to Council for assessed disclosure of a wide variety of information regarding its City Heart redevelopment project. Council released some information and claimed some exemptions. This review concerned Mr Smith's request for '(3) Total expenditure on community engagement for City Heart planning.'

Council had decided this sought information not in its possession, but which would require analysis to produce. Council submitted that analysis was needed to extract and cost the time of its in-house staff and other Council resources spent on the community engagement / consultation.

Before the Ombudsman's decision, Council (consistently with s12) undertook analysis to produce answers to questions 3 and 4 of Mr Smith's request, annexed to the decision.

At Council's request, the Ombudsman made a determination. He ultimately concluded that, in undertaking its analysis to produce accurate answers to Mr Smith’s questions 3 and 4, Council (consistently with s12) went above and beyond its duty under s18(3). It was commended for doing so.

Robin Smith and Launceston City Council (PDF, 647.1 KB)

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (December 2016)

Mr Billings (a journalist on ‘The Mercury’ newspaper) requested CCTV footage of an event at Ashley Youth Detention Centre in July 2016.  The Ombudsman determined that the footage should not be released, as various exemption grounds under s30(1) of the Right to Information Act 2009 were satisfied.  Under the Act, s30 exemptions are not subject to the public interest test at s33.

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 448.4 KB)

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022)

Mr Graham Murray is a supporter of the proposal to construct and operate a cable car on kunanyi/Mount Wellington in Hobart. On 22 August 2018, Mr Murray submitted a request for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the City of Hobart (Council). He sought information on a range of issues regarding the cable car project.

On 27 September 2018, Council released a large amount of information to Mr Murray, but refused to assess part of his application under s10 and claimed a further 324 pages were exempt pursuant to ss31, 35, 36 and 39. A second decision was released on 24 October 2018, following consultation under s36(2), and a further part of Mr Murray’s request was refused under s19. A final decision was released on 9 November 2018, which released further information and refused the remaining part of Mr Murray’s request, as there was no recognised list of ‘cable car or anti cable car websites’ to enable the information to be collated. Mr Murray then sought external review of all of Council’s decisions.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • He had no power to review Council’s decision under s10 and it remained unchanged;
  • Council’s use of s19 was affirmed;
  • Council’s use of section 31 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s35 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s36 was affirmed; and
  • Council's use of s39 was varied.

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022) (PDF, 255.9 KB)

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (February 2021)

Mr Stott requested information from Hydro Tasmania ('Hydro') regarding the fault in the Basslink cable which caused it to shut down in 2015. Hydro released some information to Mr Stott but refused the majority of his request on the basis that it considered that: the information was already publicly available (s12); the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert Hydro’s resources from its other work (s19); or the information was exempt (under a section noted below). Mr Stott sought external review of this decision.

Late in the external review process, Mr Stott agreed to redaction of some personal information relating to personnel internal or external to Hydro. Hence, while the reasons consider exemptions claimed under s36, ultimately a s36 review decision was not required.

The Ombudsman found that:

1. He does not have the power to review a decision under s12 to refuse to provide information which is already publicly available.

2. Hydro had not complied with the requirements of s19 to give Mr Stott a reasonable opportunity to consult with it to refine his request to a form which would not substantially and unreasonably divert its resources. Mr Stott’s request was returned to Hydro to reassess under the Act.

3. Exemptions claimed under s31 (legal professional privilege) should be varied, releasing additional documents to Mr Stott.

4. Exemptions claimed under s37 (information relating to the business affairs of a third party) and s38 (information relating to the business affairs of a public authority) were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

5. The exemption claimed over a document under s39 (information obtained in confidence) was not made out, but the document was otherwise exempt under s30 (information relating to the enforcement of the law).

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (August 2020)

Mr Carlo Di Falco requested information from Tasmania Police relating to gun crimes. Tasmania Police provided some information, but refused the bulk of the information under s19. Information was also refused as matters were currently before the Court and also because of legal professional privilege.

The Ombudsman upheld Tasmania Police's use of s19 on the basis that the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert the Police Service's resources from its other work. The Ombudsman also found similarly regarding information which could not be produced using the normal computer hardware and software and technical expertise of Tasmania Police. It was refused pursuant to s10.

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Jeff Thompson and Tasmania Police (July 2020)

Mr Thompson sought a broad range of information held by Tasmania Police as a result of several charges laid against him. Tasmania Police refused the information on the basis it would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of its resources. On review the Ombudsman found Tasmania Police grossly underestimated the volume of information held and its decision to refuse was affirmed.

Jeff Thompson and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 612.0 KB)

Environment Tasmania and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (November 2019)

Environment Tasmania asked the Department to provide a range of information about fin-fish farming around Tasmania. The first response was a possible refusal under s19. This was due to the size and complexity of what has been sought. The scope was revised and focused on a smaller sub-set of information about Okehampton Bay. The Department refused its release claiming it would expose a third party to competitive disadvantage under s37. The Ombudsman set this decision aside. While s37 might have been able to apply, it did not satisfy the public interest test.

Environment Tasmania and DPIPWE (PDF, 2.5 MB)

Gina Green and King Island Council (June 2018)

Ms Green alleged that a development application that was put out for public comment by King Island Council was different to the actual development. Ms Green submitted an application for assessed disclosure to Council, seeking a copy of the DA.

Council refused the application under s19 on the basis it only allocated 1% of one of its officer's time to processing RTI applications. The Ombudsman determined this was not appropriate and overturned the use of s19, directing an assessed disclosure be undertaken.

Gina Green and King Island Council  (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Rosalie Woodruff and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (June 2018)

In an original application, Ms Woodruff requested information from the Department in relation to four fin-fish farming organisations. The Department originally applied s19 and appropriately offered Ms Woodruff an opportunity to revise her application.

Ms Woodruff did this, cutting the application down to just one of those companies. Once that decision was completed, Ms Woodruff then submitted two additional applications - each one dealing with one of the three remaining companies removed from her original application. The Department refused this under s20 claiming it a repeat application.

Rosalie Woodruff and DPIPWE (PDF, 2.5 MB)

Damien Matcham and Brighton Council (January 2018)

Mr Matcham requested seven years' worth of Council related credit card statements and several years worth of the General Manager's diary appointments among other things.  Council refused the bulk of the decision under s19 on the basis the work required would be a substantial and unreasonable diversion of its resources from its other work.  Some of the information, it claimed, was already publicly available and it subsequently refused to release it under s12 of the Act.  The use of s19 was varied - set aside for the credit card statements, but affirmed for the diary entries.  A refusal under s12 is not a reviewable decision under the Act.

Damien Matcham and Brighton Council  (PDF, 1.0 MB)

Andrew McCullagh and Northern Midlands Council (June 2022)

Mr Andrew McCullagh is a ratepayer in the Northern Midlands Council (Council) municipality who operates a Facebook group entitled Northern Midlands Council Watch and takes a keen interest in Council’s fiscal management and operations. On 26 May 2020, Mr McCullagh made an application under the Right to Information Act 2009 to Council for information regarding various projects being undertaken or proposed in the municipality. On 19 June 2020, Council released a decision to Mr McCullagh refusing to provide the information sought pursuant to ss20(a) and (b) as it considered part of the request to be a repeat and part to be vexatious. This position was maintained on internal review and Mr McCullagh then sought external review of the decisions.

The Ombudsman determined that ss20(a) and (b) did not apply to Mr McCullagh’s application and directed Council to assess the information requested for disclosure in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Andrew McCullagh and Northern Midlands Council June 2022 (PDF, 162.1 KB)

Lawrence Archer and Dorset Council (June 2021)

In June 2018, former councillor Mr Lawrence Archer made an application to the Dorset Council for assessed disclosure. He sought a list of the monthly allowances and expenses incurred by individual elected members of Council, and copies of bank statements for Council credit cards used by the Mayor and General Manager.

Council refused to provide information regarding the councillors’ allowances and expenses, claiming that it was available to Mr Archer at a point in time (before he left Council) in what was known as Audit Panel papers.  The Council refused to provide information requested about expenses outside of the Audit Papers, as it indicated that this was not able to be provided accurately. It also refused to provide the credit card statements pursuant to s20(b), as it stated that this was a vexatious request.

The Ombudsman determined that he had no jurisdiction to review Council’s decision to refuse allowance and expense information under s12(3)(c)(i). However, he found that the remainder of Mr Archer’s application should be reassessed in accordance with the provisions of the Act, as s20(b) did not apply and other information appeared to be able to be extracted and provided in accordance with s18(3).

Lawrence Archer and Dorset Council (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Darryl Howlin and Clarence City Council (February 2021)

Mr Howlin has been in dispute with the City of Clarence regarding which party has responsibility for Marsh Street, Opossum Bay. He made an application in July 2017 for assessed disclosure of information regarding planning approvals, maintenance and other records to support his claim against the City of Clarence. Council refused his application pursuant to subsections 20(a) and (b) of the Right to Information Act 2009. Council considered it was: (a) a repeat request for information provided in response to a previous 2010 application by Mr Howlin on the same subject; and (b) a vexatious application as Council considered it a further attempt to gain evidence to prove arguments already rejected in court proceedings against Council. The Ombudsman found on external review that Council should not have refused his application on this basis, except for one aspect which was appropriately refused as that information had already been provided. The Ombudsman directed Council to reassess the application in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Darryl Howlin and Clarence City Council  (PDF, 184.9 KB)

Rosalie Woodruff and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (June 2018)

In an original application, Ms Woodruff requested information from the Department in relation to four fin-fish farming organisations. The Department originally applied s19 and appropriately offered Ms Woodruff an opportunity to revise her application.

Ms Woodruff did this, cutting the application down to just one of those companies. Once that decision was completed, Ms Woodruff then submitted two additional applications - each one dealing with one of the three remaining companies removed from her original application. The Department refused this under s20 claiming it a repeat application.

Rosalie Woodruff and DPIPWE (PDF, 2.5 MB)

Environment Tasmania and Environment Protection Agency (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.

Environment Tasmania and Environment Protection Agency (PDF, 1.6 MB)

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction (January 2021)

The applicant sought four incoming ministerial briefs prepared for Minister Barnett upon his appointment as Minister for Resources and Minister for Building and Construction. The briefs were from the Department of State Growth and the Department of Justice. Minister Barnett decided the briefs were entirely exempt pursuant to s27 and/or s35. In relation to s27, Minister Barnett asserted that any factual information contained in the briefs could be located by other means such as departmental websites and annual reports. In relation to s35, the Minister argued that the public interest in protecting the deliberative process outweighed the public interest in release of the information. Ms White applied for external review, asserting that much of the information could not be publicly located. Ms White further submitted that the public interest test had been incorrectly applied in the decision.


The Ombudsman varied the Minister’s decision, determining that most of the information in the ministerial briefings was ‘purely factual information’ within the meaning of s27(4) and s35(2). As such, that information was not exempt and should be released to the applicant. A table overview of [then] ‘current prosecutions and significant investigations’ under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 was now no longer: current; nor exempt under s30.

The Ombudsman agreed that some information was exempt under: s26(1)(d); s27; or (after applying the public interest test, only the name of the mother of a deceased worker) s36.

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction  (PDF, 3.2 MB)

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (October 2019)

Mr Atkin, an ABC journalist, submitted a request to Tasmania Police seeking information in relation to the gun trafficking trade in Tasmania in February 2015. Nearly 300 pages of information were claimed exempt under a range of different sections given the sensitivity of the information. The application of the various sections was largely supported by this office with a few minor changes to Tasmania Police’s decision.

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction (January 2021)

The applicant sought four incoming ministerial briefs prepared for Minister Barnett upon his appointment as Minister for Resources and Minister for Building and Construction. The briefs were from the Department of State Growth and the Department of Justice. Minister Barnett decided the briefs were entirely exempt pursuant to s27 and/or s35. In relation to s27, Minister Barnett asserted that any factual information contained in the briefs could be located by other means such as departmental websites and annual reports. In relation to s35, the Minister argued that the public interest in protecting the deliberative process outweighed the public interest in release of the information. Ms White applied for external review, asserting that much of the information could not be publicly located. Ms White further submitted that the public interest test had been incorrectly applied in the decision.


The Ombudsman varied the Minister’s decision, determining that most of the information in the ministerial briefings was ‘purely factual information’ within the meaning of s27(4) and s35(2). As such, that information was not exempt and should be released to the applicant. A table overview of [then] ‘current prosecutions and significant investigations’ under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 was now no longer: current; nor exempt under s30.

The Ombudsman agreed that some information was exempt under: s26(1)(d); s27; or (after applying the public interest test, only the name of the mother of a deceased worker) s36.

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction  (PDF, 3.2 MB)

Rudra Sharma and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (March 2020)

Mr Sharma has had ongoing interactions with the Land Titles Office in relation to his property in Sandy Bay. There was an adverse decision not to approve something Mr Sharma sought and he subsequently submitted a request for the information relating to that decision.

The Department refused the release of the information on the basis it formed internally deliberative material and the public interest test did not support its release. The Ombudsman found this was not fully correct and he varied the decision.

The common issues with this decision relate to proper consideration of use of s35 and the public interest test.

Rudra Sharma and DPIPWE (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (October 2019)

Mr Atkin, an ABC journalist, submitted a request to Tasmania Police seeking information in relation to the gun trafficking trade in Tasmania in February 2015. Nearly 300 pages of information were claimed exempt under a range of different sections given the sensitivity of the information. The application of the various sections was largely supported by this office with a few minor changes to Tasmania Police’s decision.

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Michael Atkin and Forestry Tasmania (Sustainable Timber Tasmania) (October 2018)

After the 2014 state election, Mr Atkin, a Tasmanian-based journalist for the ABC at that time, submitted an application for assessed disclosure seeking information that covered emails and other briefings about FSC certification. This included an Incoming Government Briefing (IGB).

This primarily considers the exemption of the IGB and the decision of this office to release parts of it as purely factual information.

Michael Atkin and Forestry Tasmania (Sustainable Timber Tasmania) (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Richard Baines and Department of Education (May 2018)

Mr Baines sought a range of information from the Department of Education in relation to a presentation that was to be held by Mr Steve Biddulph. Ultimately, the decision addressed whether information contained in Question Time Briefs (QTB) and Notices of Motion (NoM), among other things, could be exempt under s27 on the basis it was internal briefing information of a Minister.

Richard Baines and Department of Education (PDF, 650.7 KB)

Bryan Green MP and Department of Treasury and Finance (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.

Bryan Green and Department of Treasury and Finance (PDF, 700.3 KB)

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (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.

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 1.8 MB)

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (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.

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (PDF, 500.8 KB)

Clive Stott and TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (June 2022)

On 16 March 2019, Mr Clive Stott made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 to TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (TT-Line). He sought air quality monitoring reports in relation to the Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II, following the deaths of 16 polo ponies on a truck which travelled on one of the vessels in 2018. TT-Line issued a decision on 9 May 2019 to refuse the majority of Mr Stott’s request on the basis that it considered that:

  • the disclosure of the information would prejudice an ongoing investigation into the deaths of the ponies (s30);
  • the information contains personal information of a person other than Mr Stott (s36); and
  • the release of the information would expose TT-Line to competitive disadvantage (s38).

This decision was upheld at internal review and Mr Stott sought external review of that decision.

The Ombudsman determined that exemptions claimed under ss30, 36 and 38 were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

Clive Stott and TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (June 2022) (PDF, 185.5 KB)

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022)

Mr Simon Cameron owns a sheep farming property in central Tasmania. Allegations were made against his farm manager by officers of the then Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, now the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (the Department), regarding whether the management of feral deer was in breach of the Wildlife (General) Regulations 2010. This eventually led to the farm manager lodging a complaint against the Department with the Integrity Commission and an investigation by the Department into whether misconduct had been committed by its officers. Mr Cameron made an application in November 2017 for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) seeking the investigation report and associated documentation. The Department released a decision on 12 December 2017, finding all 766 pages found to be responsive to the request were exempt from disclosure under ss30, 31, 35, 36 and 39 of the Act. Mr Cameron then sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s30 were primarily not made out, but some information was validly exempt under s30(1)(a)(ii);
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s31 were upheld; and
  • Some information was validly exempt under ss35, 36 and 39 but the release of the remainder was not contrary to the public interest.

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022) (PDF, 497.8 KB)

Anna Porretta and the Department of Police, Fire and
Emergency Management (December 2021)

Mrs Anna Porretta is involved in the operation of the Ivory Lounge Bar.  She made an application in July 2018 for assessed disclosure to the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management regarding its representations relating to an application for an out-of-hours permit submitted to the Liquor and Gaming Branch of the Department of Treasury and Finance.  In particular, she sought to obtain the names and rankings, in terms of Tasmania Police call outs, of other licensed premises to give context to information included in the representations.  The Department released a decision on 2 August 2018 and an internal review decision on 22 September 2018, both determining that all information was exempt pursuant to s30(1)(e) of the Right to Information Act 2009, as it considered that the information would disclose information gathered, collated and created for intelligence purposes.  Mrs Porretta then sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that the information amounted to intelligence as defined by the Act and affirmed the Department's decision to exempt the information under s30(1)(e).

Anna Porretta and the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management (PDF, 143.1 KB)

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (November 2021)

Ms Camille Bianchi is a freelance journalist who sought information from the Department of Health regarding the response to allegations of misconduct from its former employee at Ward 4K of the Launceston General Hospital, nurse James Griffin. The Department released a decision on 22 July 2020 on the 104 pages of information it located responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, determining that all documents were exempt pursuant to ss35, 36 and 39 of the Right to Information Act 2009. Ms Bianchi then sought external review of this decision.

During the external review process, the Department reconsidered some of its proposed exemptions and located additional documents responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, which had not previously been assessed.

The Ombudsman ordered that:
* Exemptions claimed by the Department under ss30 and 39 are not made out;
* Some information was validly exempt under s35 but the release of the majority was not contrary to the public interest;
* The personal information of patients, members of the public, Department staff raising concerns about Mr Griffin and Ward 4K staff was exempt under s36, except job titles for Ward 4K staff;
* The personal information of Mr Griffin, except his personal address, telephone number or date of birth, and the work related personal information of other Department staff, union representatives and consultants is not exempt under s36 and is to be released to Ms Bianchi; and
* Some documents were out of scope of the request or publicly available and not required to be released.

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Rhiana Whitson and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) (May 2021)

Ms Whitson (a journalist for the ABC) sought information from the Department about the death of 16 polo ponies in January 2018 which were transported on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. The Department refused to provide any information responsive to the request, considering it fully exempt pursuant to s30(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act 2009, as information relating to the enforcement of the law, on the basis of an ongoing investigation and potential prosecutions relating to the incident. Since the Department’s original decision, charges have been laid under the Animal Welfare Act 1993 in relation to the incident and their prosecution remains ongoing.

The Ombudsman predominantly upheld the Department’s decision but found that some information was not exempt, consistent with a previous external review decision in Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (March 2019). This information was nonetheless not required to be provided to Ms Whitson, as it was otherwise available under s12(3)(c)(i).

Rhiana Whitson and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) (PDF, 162.3 KB)

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (February 2021)

Mr Stott requested information from Hydro Tasmania ('Hydro') regarding the fault in the Basslink cable which caused it to shut down in 2015. Hydro released some information to Mr Stott but refused the majority of his request on the basis that it considered that: the information was already publicly available (s12); the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert Hydro’s resources from its other work (s19); or the information was exempt (under a section noted below). Mr Stott sought external review of this decision.

Late in the external review process, Mr Stott agreed to redaction of some personal information relating to personnel internal or external to Hydro. Hence, while the reasons consider exemptions claimed under s36, ultimately a s36 review decision was not required.

The Ombudsman found that:

1. He does not have the power to review a decision under s12 to refuse to provide information which is already publicly available.

2. Hydro had not complied with the requirements of s19 to give Mr Stott a reasonable opportunity to consult with it to refine his request to a form which would not substantially and unreasonably divert its resources. Mr Stott’s request was returned to Hydro to reassess under the Act.

3. Exemptions claimed under s31 (legal professional privilege) should be varied, releasing additional documents to Mr Stott.

4. Exemptions claimed under s37 (information relating to the business affairs of a third party) and s38 (information relating to the business affairs of a public authority) were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

5. The exemption claimed over a document under s39 (information obtained in confidence) was not made out, but the document was otherwise exempt under s30 (information relating to the enforcement of the law).

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction (January 2021)

The applicant sought four incoming ministerial briefs prepared for Minister Barnett upon his appointment as Minister for Resources and Minister for Building and Construction. The briefs were from the Department of State Growth and the Department of Justice. Minister Barnett decided the briefs were entirely exempt pursuant to s27 and/or s35. In relation to s27, Minister Barnett asserted that any factual information contained in the briefs could be located by other means such as departmental websites and annual reports. In relation to s35, the Minister argued that the public interest in protecting the deliberative process outweighed the public interest in release of the information. Ms White applied for external review, asserting that much of the information could not be publicly located. Ms White further submitted that the public interest test had been incorrectly applied in the decision.


The Ombudsman varied the Minister’s decision, determining that most of the information in the ministerial briefings was ‘purely factual information’ within the meaning of s27(4) and s35(2). As such, that information was not exempt and should be released to the applicant. A table overview of [then] ‘current prosecutions and significant investigations’ under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 was now no longer: current; nor exempt under s30.

The Ombudsman agreed that some information was exempt under: s26(1)(d); s27; or (after applying the public interest test, only the name of the mother of a deceased worker) s36.

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction  (PDF, 3.2 MB)

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (August 2020)

Mr Carlo Di Falco requested information from Tasmania Police relating to gun crimes. Tasmania Police provided some information, but refused the bulk of the information under s19. Information was also refused as matters were currently before the Court and also because of legal professional privilege.

The Ombudsman upheld Tasmania Police's use of s19 on the basis that the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert the Police Service's resources from its other work. The Ombudsman also found similarly regarding information which could not be produced using the normal computer hardware and software and technical expertise of Tasmania Police. It was refused pursuant to s10.

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.2 MB)

T and Tasmania Police (June 2020)

T sought information in relation to her complaint to police about an alleged abuser. Tasmania Police processed the request and found most of the information to be exempt. This was mainly on the basis it involved information relating to the enforcement of the law, information subject to legal professional privilege, internal information, or personal information of other people. The Ombudsman considered the decision of Tasmania Police and, while mostly upholding it, held that some further information should be released to T.

T and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 3.0 MB)

George Lane and Tasmania Police (April 2020)

Dr George Lane is a scientist who had been undertaking some consultancy work for which he ordered equipment from China. Tasmania Police was alerted to a parcel potentially containing glassware consistent with drug manufacture. A search warrant was issued and Dr Lane's property was searched. He sought information from the Police Service relating to the incident. Tasmania Police exempted much of the material as it related to the enforcement of the law, or for other reasons such as internal deliberative and personal information. While most of the information remained exempt, the Ombudsman made some variations to the Police Service’s decision.

George Lane and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (October 2019)

Mr Atkin, an ABC journalist, submitted a request to Tasmania Police seeking information in relation to the gun trafficking trade in Tasmania in February 2015. Nearly 300 pages of information were claimed exempt under a range of different sections given the sensitivity of the information. The application of the various sections was largely supported by this office with a few minor changes to Tasmania Police’s decision.

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.1 MB)

S and Tasmania Police (August 2019)

S's sister passed away and an investigation was conducted by Tasmania Police. S was not satisfied with some aspects and utilised the Right to Information Act to obtain information to assist her work out the cause of death. S rejects the finding of suicide and believes more sinister actions are responsible.  The Ombudsman determined that the redacted information was not exempt under s30 and the information was released in full.

S and Tasmania Police (PDF, 275.8 KB)

Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (March 2019)

Ms Squires (a journalist with NewsCorp) sought information from the Department about the death of 16 ponies on the Spirit of Tasmania. This was a serious incident and sparked a lot of interest among the media and the public. This is an interesting matter in that a strong public interest does not necessarily guarantee release of information in the right circumstances. The Department relied on exemptions due to enforcement of the law, third party business information, and information obtained in confidence. The decision only upholds those exemptions relating to the enforcement of the law and overturns the others.

Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (December 2016)

Mr Billings (a journalist on ‘The Mercury’ newspaper) requested CCTV footage of an event at Ashley Youth Detention Centre in July 2016.  The Ombudsman determined that the footage should not be released, as various exemption grounds under s30(1) of the Right to Information Act 2009 were satisfied.  Under the Act, s30 exemptions are not subject to the public interest test at s33.

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 448.4 KB)

Christine Smart and City of Launceston

Ms Smart requested information relating to the legal costs incurred by Council in relation to her property, specifically her fence line that bordered an alleyway, that had historically been there for decades. A review of the boundaries identified the discrepancy and Ms Smart was asked to correct it.

Ms Smart's application for assessed disclosure sought the the amount of legal costs incurred by Council after she challenged Council's decision. This matter primarily looks at whether or not the legal costs incurred constitute privileged information.

Christine Smart and City of Launceston (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022)

Mr Graham Murray is a supporter of the proposal to construct and operate a cable car on kunanyi/Mount Wellington in Hobart. On 22 August 2018, Mr Murray submitted a request for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the City of Hobart (Council). He sought information on a range of issues regarding the cable car project.

On 27 September 2018, Council released a large amount of information to Mr Murray, but refused to assess part of his application under s10 and claimed a further 324 pages were exempt pursuant to ss31, 35, 36 and 39. A second decision was released on 24 October 2018, following consultation under s36(2), and a further part of Mr Murray’s request was refused under s19. A final decision was released on 9 November 2018, which released further information and refused the remaining part of Mr Murray’s request, as there was no recognised list of ‘cable car or anti cable car websites’ to enable the information to be collated. Mr Murray then sought external review of all of Council’s decisions.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • He had no power to review Council’s decision under s10 and it remained unchanged;
  • Council’s use of s19 was affirmed;
  • Council’s use of section 31 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s35 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s36 was affirmed; and
  • Council's use of s39 was varied.

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022) (PDF, 255.9 KB)

Trevor Burdon and Sustainable Timber Tasmania (June 2022)

Mr Trevor Burdon invested in the Managed Investment Schemes (MIS) regarding plantations grown by Gunns Plantations Limited (Gunns) on land managed by Forestry Tasmania, now Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT). When Gunns became insolvent in 2013, legal disputes arose between STT and the liquidators for Gunns regarding issues impacting Mr Burdon. On 7 December 2018, Mr Burdon made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) seeking information regarding the legal settlement of the dispute and alleged ‘gross underpayment’ of MIS investors by STT in that settlement. On 17 April 2019, STT released a decision to Mr Burdon which found that all information responsive to his request was exempt from release pursuant to ss31, 35, 37, 38 and 40 of the Act. Mr Burdon sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s31 were varied;
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s38 were varied; and
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to ss35, 37 and 40 were not required to be assessed, as the relevant information was otherwise exempt.

Trevor Burdon and Sustainable Timber Tasmania  (June 2022) (PDF, 193.1 KB)

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022)

Mr Simon Cameron owns a sheep farming property in central Tasmania. Allegations were made against his farm manager by officers of the then Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, now the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (the Department), regarding whether the management of feral deer was in breach of the Wildlife (General) Regulations 2010. This eventually led to the farm manager lodging a complaint against the Department with the Integrity Commission and an investigation by the Department into whether misconduct had been committed by its officers. Mr Cameron made an application in November 2017 for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) seeking the investigation report and associated documentation. The Department released a decision on 12 December 2017, finding all 766 pages found to be responsive to the request were exempt from disclosure under ss30, 31, 35, 36 and 39 of the Act. Mr Cameron then sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s30 were primarily not made out, but some information was validly exempt under s30(1)(a)(ii);
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s31 were upheld; and
  • Some information was validly exempt under ss35, 36 and 39 but the release of the remainder was not contrary to the public interest.

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022) (PDF, 497.8 KB)

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (February 2021)

Mr Stott requested information from Hydro Tasmania ('Hydro') regarding the fault in the Basslink cable which caused it to shut down in 2015. Hydro released some information to Mr Stott but refused the majority of his request on the basis that it considered that: the information was already publicly available (s12); the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert Hydro’s resources from its other work (s19); or the information was exempt (under a section noted below). Mr Stott sought external review of this decision.

Late in the external review process, Mr Stott agreed to redaction of some personal information relating to personnel internal or external to Hydro. Hence, while the reasons consider exemptions claimed under s36, ultimately a s36 review decision was not required.

The Ombudsman found that:

1. He does not have the power to review a decision under s12 to refuse to provide information which is already publicly available.

2. Hydro had not complied with the requirements of s19 to give Mr Stott a reasonable opportunity to consult with it to refine his request to a form which would not substantially and unreasonably divert its resources. Mr Stott’s request was returned to Hydro to reassess under the Act.

3. Exemptions claimed under s31 (legal professional privilege) should be varied, releasing additional documents to Mr Stott.

4. Exemptions claimed under s37 (information relating to the business affairs of a third party) and s38 (information relating to the business affairs of a public authority) were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

5. The exemption claimed over a document under s39 (information obtained in confidence) was not made out, but the document was otherwise exempt under s30 (information relating to the enforcement of the law).

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (August 2020)

Mr Carlo Di Falco requested information from Tasmania Police relating to gun crimes. Tasmania Police provided some information, but refused the bulk of the information under s19. Information was also refused as matters were currently before the Court and also because of legal professional privilege.

The Ombudsman upheld Tasmania Police's use of s19 on the basis that the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert the Police Service's resources from its other work. The Ombudsman also found similarly regarding information which could not be produced using the normal computer hardware and software and technical expertise of Tasmania Police. It was refused pursuant to s10.

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.2 MB)

T and Tasmania Police (June 2020)

T sought information in relation to her complaint to police about an alleged abuser. Tasmania Police processed the request and found most of the information to be exempt. This was mainly on the basis it involved information relating to the enforcement of the law, information subject to legal professional privilege, internal information, or personal information of other people. The Ombudsman considered the decision of Tasmania Police and, while mostly upholding it, held that some further information should be released to T.

T and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 3.0 MB)

The Mercury and City of Hobart

The information at issue was whether information contained in a memorandum of Council constituted legal professional privilege under s31.  This was in response to Council seeking legal advice relating to the Facebook parody page, "Hobart City Council".

The Mercury and City of Hobart (PDF, 124.7 KB)

Christine Smart and City of Launceston

Ms Smart requested information relating to the legal costs incurred by Council in relation to her property, specifically her fence line that bordered an alleyway, that had historically been there for decades. A review of the boundaries identified the discrepancy and Ms Smart was asked to correct it.

Ms Smart's application for assessed disclosure sought the the amount of legal costs incurred by Council after she challenged Council's decision. This matter primarily looks at whether or not the legal costs incurred constitute privileged information.

Christine Smart and City of Launceston (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Dr Michael Powell and the University of Tasmania

Dr Powell submitted a request to UTAS after his contract was not continued. Dr Powell was of the view this was a result of a public comment he made that was contrary to the views of the then sitting member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic. Dr Powell sought information that UTAS claimed exempt as legal professional privilege.

Dr Michael Powell and the University of Tasmania (PDF, 754.3 KB)

Robert Vellacott and Devonport City Council (April 2022)

In October 2018, Mr Robert Vellacott made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the Devonport City Council seeking information about the Providore Place development (now re-named Market Square Pavillion). Council released a decision which provided some explanation of details regarding Council expenditure and contributions to the project, but refused under ss32 and 37 of the Act to provide the majority of information sought, including the signed lease agreement between it and Providore Place Devonport Pty Ltd, any amendments to that lease, and individual figures for fit-out of tenancies. This decision was affirmed on internal review on 24 December 2018. Mr Vellacott sought external review of the exemptions applied to the information and whether a sufficient search for information responsive to his request had been made by Council.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed by Council pursuant to s32 of the Act  were varied, as the signed lease agreement was not exempt;
  • Exemptions claimed by Council pursuant to s37 of the Act were upheld; and
  • There had been a sufficient search for relevant information by Council.

Robert Vellacott and Devonport City Council

Adam Stanway and Tasmania Police (May 2021)

Mr Stanway sought information from Tasmania Police regarding its classification of the Warwick WFA1 bolt action rifle as a prohibited firearm and membership of its Firearms Categorisation Assessment Committee [FCAC]. Tasmania Police released some information regarding the decision to classify the WFA1 as a prohibited firearm, but claimed other information exempt under s35 or s36. Tasmania Police released information regarding most FCAC members, but not one who it had engaged from another jurisdiction. Tasmania Police decided that member's information was exempt under s34 and/or s36.

During the Ombudsman's external review, Tasmania Police agreed to the release of that member's name and biographic information, after his consent. The Ombudsman therefore determined that information was not exempt under s34 or s36. That had been Mr Stanway's main concern.

Mr Stanway agreed he did not require personal information of FCAC members contained in emails between them, beyond that already released to him by Tasmania Police or by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth). Due to that and s12(3)(c)(i), the Ombudsman was able to finalise the application on the basis of its scope and without determining the exemptions claimed by Tasmania Police pursuant to s35.

Adam Stanway and Tasmania Police (PDF, 243.7 KB)

George Lane and Tasmania Police (April 2020)

Dr George Lane is a scientist who had been undertaking some consultancy work for which he ordered equipment from China. Tasmania Police was alerted to a parcel potentially containing glassware consistent with drug manufacture. A search warrant was issued and Dr Lane's property was searched. He sought information from the Police Service relating to the incident. Tasmania Police exempted much of the material as it related to the enforcement of the law, or for other reasons such as internal deliberative and personal information. While most of the information remained exempt, the Ombudsman made some variations to the Police Service’s decision.

George Lane and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022)

Mr Graham Murray is a supporter of the proposal to construct and operate a cable car on kunanyi/Mount Wellington in Hobart. On 22 August 2018, Mr Murray submitted a request for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the City of Hobart (Council). He sought information on a range of issues regarding the cable car project.

On 27 September 2018, Council released a large amount of information to Mr Murray, but refused to assess part of his application under s10 and claimed a further 324 pages were exempt pursuant to ss31, 35, 36 and 39. A second decision was released on 24 October 2018, following consultation under s36(2), and a further part of Mr Murray’s request was refused under s19. A final decision was released on 9 November 2018, which released further information and refused the remaining part of Mr Murray’s request, as there was no recognised list of ‘cable car or anti cable car websites’ to enable the information to be collated. Mr Murray then sought external review of all of Council’s decisions.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • He had no power to review Council’s decision under s10 and it remained unchanged;
  • Council’s use of s19 was affirmed;
  • Council’s use of section 31 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s35 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s36 was affirmed; and
  • Council's use of s39 was varied.

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022) (PDF, 255.9 KB)

Michael Rowan and Kingborough Council (May 2022)

Professor Michael Rowan is the co-owner of a property in the Kingborough Council (Council) municipal area. A bushfire safety bunker has been installed at the property and Council has been pursuing compliance action on the basis that proper approvals under the Building Act 2016 were not obtained for the bunker. Professor Rowan made an application on 3 December 2021 under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to Council seeking information regarding such bunkers in general and regarding the bunker at his property in particular. Council located eleven documents and released the majority of the information responsive to his request, with some redactions made pursuant to ss35 and 36. Professor Rowan sought internal review and Council’s internal review decision of 21 January 2022 primarily affirmed its original decision. Professor Rowan then sought external review disputing one s35 redaction in an email, on the basis that the information should not be exempt and was of particular importance in defending imminent enforcement action from Council.

The Ombudsman determined that the exemption claimed by Council under s35 was not made out and the information should be released to Professor Rowan.

Michael Rowan and Kingborough Council (PDF, 129.0 KB)

Todd Dudley and Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (May 2022)

Mr Todd Dudley, the president of the North East Bioregional Network Inc., made an application on 18 August 2018 under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (the Department) seeking information regarding the environmental impact of proposed mountain bike tracks in the St Helens area. The Department located nine pages of information responsive to his request and made a decision on 3 December 2018 to redact parts of the information pursuant to ss35 and 36. Mr Dudley sought internal review and the Department’s internal review decision of 29 March 2019 affirmed its original decision. Mr Dudley then sought external review on the bases that the exemptions claimed were not valid and that there had been an insufficient search for information responsive to his request.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • The Department’s search for information was sufficient; and
  • Exemptions claimed by the Department pursuant to ss35 and 36 were not made out.

Todd Dudley and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (PDF, 226.6 KB)

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022)

Mr Simon Cameron owns a sheep farming property in central Tasmania. Allegations were made against his farm manager by officers of the then Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, now the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (the Department), regarding whether the management of feral deer was in breach of the Wildlife (General) Regulations 2010. This eventually led to the farm manager lodging a complaint against the Department with the Integrity Commission and an investigation by the Department into whether misconduct had been committed by its officers. Mr Cameron made an application in November 2017 for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) seeking the investigation report and associated documentation. The Department released a decision on 12 December 2017, finding all 766 pages found to be responsive to the request were exempt from disclosure under ss30, 31, 35, 36 and 39 of the Act. Mr Cameron then sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s30 were primarily not made out, but some information was validly exempt under s30(1)(a)(ii);
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s31 were upheld; and
  • Some information was validly exempt under ss35, 36 and 39 but the release of the remainder was not contrary to the public interest.

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022) (PDF, 497.8 KB)

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (November 2021)

Ms Camille Bianchi is a freelance journalist who sought information from the Department of Health regarding the response to allegations of misconduct from its former employee at Ward 4K of the Launceston General Hospital, nurse James Griffin. The Department released a decision on 22 July 2020 on the 104 pages of information it located responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, determining that all documents were exempt pursuant to ss35, 36 and 39 of the Right to Information Act 2009. Ms Bianchi then sought external review of this decision.

During the external review process, the Department reconsidered some of its proposed exemptions and located additional documents responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, which had not previously been assessed.

The Ombudsman ordered that:
* Exemptions claimed by the Department under ss30 and 39 are not made out;
* Some information was validly exempt under s35 but the release of the majority was not contrary to the public interest;
* The personal information of patients, members of the public, Department staff raising concerns about Mr Griffin and Ward 4K staff was exempt under s36, except job titles for Ward 4K staff;
* The personal information of Mr Griffin, except his personal address, telephone number or date of birth, and the work related personal information of other Department staff, union representatives and consultants is not exempt under s36 and is to be released to Ms Bianchi; and
* Some documents were out of scope of the request or publicly available and not required to be released.

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Adam Stanway and Tasmania Police (May 2021)

Mr Stanway sought information from Tasmania Police regarding its classification of the Warwick WFA1 bolt action rifle as a prohibited firearm and membership of its Firearms Categorisation Assessment Committee [FCAC]. Tasmania Police released some information regarding the decision to classify the WFA1 as a prohibited firearm, but claimed other information exempt under s35 or s36. Tasmania Police released information regarding most FCAC members, but not one who it had engaged from another jurisdiction. Tasmania Police decided that member's information was exempt under s34 and/or s36.

During the Ombudsman's external review, Tasmania Police agreed to the release of that member's name and biographic information, after his consent. The Ombudsman therefore determined that information was not exempt under s34 or s36. That had been Mr Stanway's main concern.

Mr Stanway agreed he did not require personal information of FCAC members contained in emails between them, beyond that already released to him by Tasmania Police or by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth). Due to that and s12(3)(c)(i), the Ombudsman was able to finalise the application on the basis of its scope and without determining the exemptions claimed by Tasmania Police pursuant to s35.

Adam Stanway and Tasmania Police (PDF, 243.7 KB)

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction (January 2021)

The applicant sought four incoming ministerial briefs prepared for Minister Barnett upon his appointment as Minister for Resources and Minister for Building and Construction. The briefs were from the Department of State Growth and the Department of Justice. Minister Barnett decided the briefs were entirely exempt pursuant to s27 and/or s35. In relation to s27, Minister Barnett asserted that any factual information contained in the briefs could be located by other means such as departmental websites and annual reports. In relation to s35, the Minister argued that the public interest in protecting the deliberative process outweighed the public interest in release of the information. Ms White applied for external review, asserting that much of the information could not be publicly located. Ms White further submitted that the public interest test had been incorrectly applied in the decision.


The Ombudsman varied the Minister’s decision, determining that most of the information in the ministerial briefings was ‘purely factual information’ within the meaning of s27(4) and s35(2). As such, that information was not exempt and should be released to the applicant. A table overview of [then] ‘current prosecutions and significant investigations’ under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 was now no longer: current; nor exempt under s30.

The Ombudsman agreed that some information was exempt under: s26(1)(d); s27; or (after applying the public interest test, only the name of the mother of a deceased worker) s36.

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction  (PDF, 3.2 MB)

Debbie Wisby / Jennifer Crawford and Department of Premier and Cabinet (August 2020)

The Glamorgan Spring Bay Council’s General Manager (GM) conducted an investigation into an alleged breach of confidentiality. Two Councillors applied for all information relating to or touching upon: the investigation; or contact regarding it between the GM and specified officers of the Department’s Local Government Division (LGD). The Department released most of the information, but not emails in which the GM requested, and an officer of the LGD provided, advice regarding the investigation. These were claimed to be exempt pursuant to s35(1)(b) and, on internal review, s39(1)(b).

The Ombudsman considered the emails under both s35(1)(b) and s39(1)(b). It was arguable they came within these exemptions. However, the Ombudsman was not satisfied disclosure would be reasonably likely to impair the ability of the LGD to obtain similar information in the future, as required for exemption under s39(1)(b). Both sections are subject to the s33 public interest test. After considering a range of relevant matters, the Ombudsman determined that the emails should be disclosed as this would not harm the public interest.

Debbie Wisby / Jennifer Crawford and Department of Premier and Cabinet  (PDF, 133.7 KB)

T and Tasmania Police (June 2020)

T sought information in relation to her complaint to police about an alleged abuser. Tasmania Police processed the request and found most of the information to be exempt. This was mainly on the basis it involved information relating to the enforcement of the law, information subject to legal professional privilege, internal information, or personal information of other people. The Ombudsman considered the decision of Tasmania Police and, while mostly upholding it, held that some further information should be released to T.

T and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 3.0 MB)

George Lane and Tasmania Police (April 2020)

Dr George Lane is a scientist who had been undertaking some consultancy work for which he ordered equipment from China. Tasmania Police was alerted to a parcel potentially containing glassware consistent with drug manufacture. A search warrant was issued and Dr Lane's property was searched. He sought information from the Police Service relating to the incident. Tasmania Police exempted much of the material as it related to the enforcement of the law, or for other reasons such as internal deliberative and personal information. While most of the information remained exempt, the Ombudsman made some variations to the Police Service’s decision.

George Lane and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Louise Grahame and City of Hobart (March 2020)

Louise Grahame ran a stall at the Salamanca Market. Conflict between Ms Grahame and a number of other stallholders saw complaints made to the Council, which manages the market, by other stallholders about Ms Grahame. She sought copies of these complaints and emails relating to her and the market. The Council released a large amount of information but exempted in full or part various documents it claimed were internal deliberative information or information obtained by Council in confidence. It also redacted some personal information. The Ombudsman determined that most of the information was not exempt, including the identities of stallholders who had made complaints about Ms Grahame. While the latter was personal information, the public interest, including reasons of procedural fairness, entitled Ms Grahame to know the identities of those who had complained about her. However, a complainant's argument that their telephone number and personal email address were exempt information was upheld.

Louise Grahame and City of Hobart  (PDF, 13.4 MB)

Rudra Sharma and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (March 2020)

Mr Sharma has had ongoing interactions with the Land Titles Office in relation to his property in Sandy Bay. There was an adverse decision not to approve something Mr Sharma sought and he subsequently submitted a request for the information relating to that decision.

The Department refused the release of the information on the basis it formed internally deliberative material and the public interest test did not support its release. The Ombudsman found this was not fully correct and he varied the decision.

The common issues with this decision relate to proper consideration of use of s35 and the public interest test.

Rudra Sharma and DPIPWE (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Richard Webb and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (January 2020)

Mr Webb sought information from the Department in relation to the development proposal on Halls Island, Lake Malbena. The request sought a range of information that primarily included some leases for Halls Island and some documents to the relevant Minister.

One of the core parts of this review was whether or not the two leases sought for Halls Island was information obtained in confidence as claimed by the Department. The Ombudsman overturned this in full on the basis the Department's own lease documents could not constitute information obtained in confidence that, if released, would impair its ability to obtain similar information in the future.

Richard Webb and DPIPWE (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Damon Smith and Tasmania Police (October 2019)

Mr Smith sought information from Tasmania Police in relation to a complaint he had made. Specifically, he sought a copy of the investigation notes and details that resulted from his complaint.

Tasmania Police exempted some information and released other pieces directly to the applicant. There was some negotiation with Police during this review that resulted in Tasmania Police voluntarily releasing extra information. As a result there were very few pieces of information the Ombudsman determined should additionally be released to the applicant.

Damon Smith and Tasmania Police (PDF, 888.3 KB)

Atkin and Forestry Tasmania (Sustainable Timber Tasmania) (October 2018)

After the 2014 state election, Mr Atkin, a Tasmanian-based journalist for the ABC at that time, submitted an application for assessed disclosure seeking information that covered emails and other briefings about FSC certification. This included an Incoming Government Briefing (IGB).

This primarily considers the exemption of the IGB and the decision of this office to release parts of it as purely factual information.

Atkin and Forestry Tasmania (Sustainable Timber Tasmania) (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Tim Baird and City of Launceston (November 2017)

Mr Baird requested information relating to the City of Launceston's plan to upgrade the Sea Port Boardwalk.  Specifically, Mr Baird sought information leading to the appointment of Darcon Pty Ltd as the successful tenderer.

This decision considered the points of 'competitive disadvantage' under s37 and the balance between public interest and deliberative information.

Tim Baird and City of Launceston (PDF, 689.3 KB)

Bryan Green MP and Department of Treasury and Finance (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.

Bryan Green and Department of Treasury and Finance (PDF, 700.3 KB)

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (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.

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 1.8 MB)

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (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.

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (PDF, 500.8 KB)

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (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.

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 425.1 KB)

Clive Stott and TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (June 2022)

On 16 March 2019, Mr Clive Stott made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 to TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (TT-Line). He sought air quality monitoring reports in relation to the Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II, following the deaths of 16 polo ponies on a truck which travelled on one of the vessels in 2018. TT-Line issued a decision on 9 May 2019 to refuse the majority of Mr Stott’s request on the basis that it considered that:

  • the disclosure of the information would prejudice an ongoing investigation into the deaths of the ponies (s30);
  • the information contains personal information of a person other than Mr Stott (s36); and
  • the release of the information would expose TT-Line to competitive disadvantage (s38).

This decision was upheld at internal review and Mr Stott sought external review of that decision.

The Ombudsman determined that exemptions claimed under ss30, 36 and 38 were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

Clive Stott and TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (June 2022) (PDF, 185.5 KB)

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022)

Mr Graham Murray is a supporter of the proposal to construct and operate a cable car on kunanyi/Mount Wellington in Hobart. On 22 August 2018, Mr Murray submitted a request for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the City of Hobart (Council). He sought information on a range of issues regarding the cable car project.

On 27 September 2018, Council released a large amount of information to Mr Murray, but refused to assess part of his application under s10 and claimed a further 324 pages were exempt pursuant to ss31, 35, 36 and 39. A second decision was released on 24 October 2018, following consultation under s36(2), and a further part of Mr Murray’s request was refused under s19. A final decision was released on 9 November 2018, which released further information and refused the remaining part of Mr Murray’s request, as there was no recognised list of ‘cable car or anti cable car websites’ to enable the information to be collated. Mr Murray then sought external review of all of Council’s decisions.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • He had no power to review Council’s decision under s10 and it remained unchanged;
  • Council’s use of s19 was affirmed;
  • Council’s use of section 31 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s35 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s36 was affirmed; and
  • Council's use of s39 was varied.

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022) (PDF, 255.9 KB)

Todd Dudley and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (May 2022)

Mr Todd Dudley, the president of the North East Bioregional Network Inc., made an application on 18 August 2018 under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (the Department) seeking information regarding the environmental impact of proposed mountain bike tracks in the St Helens area. The Department located nine pages of information responsive to his request and made a decision on 3 December 2018 to redact parts of the information pursuant to ss35 and 36. Mr Dudley sought internal review and the Department’s internal review decision of 29 March 2019 affirmed its original decision. Mr Dudley then sought external review on the bases that the exemptions claimed were not valid and that there had been an insufficient search for information responsive to his request.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • The Department’s search for information was sufficient; and
  • Exemptions claimed by the Department pursuant to ss35 and 36 were not made out.

Todd Dudley and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (PDF, 226.6 KB)

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022)

Mr Simon Cameron owns a sheep farming property in central Tasmania. Allegations were made against his farm manager by officers of the then Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, now the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (the Department), regarding whether the management of feral deer was in breach of the Wildlife (General) Regulations 2010. This eventually led to the farm manager lodging a complaint against the Department with the Integrity Commission and an investigation by the Department into whether misconduct had been committed by its officers. Mr Cameron made an application in November 2017 for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) seeking the investigation report and associated documentation. The Department released a decision on 12 December 2017, finding all 766 pages found to be responsive to the request were exempt from disclosure under ss30, 31, 35, 36 and 39 of the Act. Mr Cameron then sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s30 were primarily not made out, but some information was validly exempt under s30(1)(a)(ii);
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s31 were upheld; and
  • Some information was validly exempt under ss35, 36 and 39 but the release of the remainder was not contrary to the public interest.

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022) (PDF, 497.8 KB)

D, E and Tasmania Police (December 2021)

D alleges he was sexually assaulted as a child by an older man, E.  E was investigated for gross indecency then later charged with indecent practices between males.  He was acquitted at trial.  D applied to Tasmania Police for assessed disclosure of information regarding the investigation, as he was seeking to make a civil claim against E.  A proof of evidence that included E's record of interview was found to be responsive to D's request. Tasmania Police consulted E under s36(2) when considering whether to release the document.  E objected to the release, but Tasmania Police decided that the document was not exempt information under s36 and should be provided to D with certain personal information redacted.  E sought internal review of the decision and Tasmania Police affirmed its original decision.  E sought external review of Tasmania Police's internal review decision to release the information to D.

The Ombudsman considered E's objections and relevant public interest factors.  He concluded that the proof of evidence that included E's record of interview should be released to D in the redacted form provided to E in the Tasmania Police internal review decision.

D, E and Tasmania Police (PDF, 179.4 KB)

D, E and Department of Education (December 2021)

D applied for assessed disclosure from the Department of Education (the Department) of information concerning E, who is a former Departmental employee and the alleged perpetrator of child sexual abuse against D.  D sought information held by the Department regarding E’s suspension from teaching duties, his subsequent reinstatement and any subsequent complaints. During the assessment of D’s application, the Department located a letter containing E’s personal information which was responsive to the request. The Department consulted E under s36(2), seeking his view on the potential disclosure of his personal information. E objected to the release of the information, but the Department proposed to release it in partially redacted  form and maintained this view on internal review. E sought external review on 11 February 2019.

The Ombudsman determined that the exemption claimed by the Department under s36 should be varied, with E’s signature ordered to now be redacted in addition to his address, telephone number and email address. It is not contrary to the public interest to release the remainder of the document to D.

D, E and Department of Education  (PDF, 206.1 KB)

C and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (December 2021)

In May 2018, C made an application to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (the Department) for assessed disclosure, seeking copies of commercial filming agreements and drone use approved between 1 January 2013 and 21 May 2018 in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area. Consultation occurred with the commercial flying agreement applicants under s36(2) and s37(2). Following this consultation, the names and personal information relating to some entities applying for filming were redacted under s36, as well as the personal information of some Departmental staff. C sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that the Department’s use of s36 should be varied. Some personal information of contact people listen on the commercial filming applications was validly exempt, but the Department had not discharged its onus under s47(4) to show why the names and Australian Business Numbers of some commercial entities, and the personal information of some Departmental staff, should be exempt under s36.

C and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (PDF, 182.5 KB)

Patrick Billings and the Department of Justice (November 2021)

Patrick Billings, a journalist with the Mercury newspaper, sought information from the Department of Justice regarding prisoners who had been incorrectly released. The Department located information relating to seven prisoners and released the gender and age of each prisoner, the date of early or late release, the correct earliest release date, the date each prisoner was returned to custody and the Tasmania Prison Service’s assessment of how the errors were made. Offence information relating to the prisoners was claimed to be exempt pursuant to s36 of the Right to Information Act 2009.

Mr Billings sought external review and the Ombudsman determined that offence information relating to prisoners about whom a decision or comments on passing sentence had been published is exempt under s36. Offence information relating to prisoners about whom there were no decision or comments on passing sentence published was not exempt as it did not render the identity of the prisoners reasonably ascertainable and was to be released to Mr Billings.

The Ombudsman reconsidered his decision due to the accidental omission of the opportunity for the Department to provide input on an adverse decision, but did not alter his original determinations following the reconsideration.

Patrick Billings and the Department of Justice (PDF, 136.2 KB)

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (November 2021)

Ms Camille Bianchi is a freelance journalist who sought information from the Department of Health regarding the response to allegations of misconduct from its former employee at Ward 4K of the Launceston General Hospital, nurse James Griffin. The Department released a decision on 22 July 2020 on the 104 pages of information it located responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, determining that all documents were exempt pursuant to ss35, 36 and 39 of the Right to Information Act 2009. Ms Bianchi then sought external review of this decision.

During the external review process, the Department reconsidered some of its proposed exemptions and located additional documents responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, which had not previously been assessed.

The Ombudsman ordered that:
* Exemptions claimed by the Department under ss30 and 39 are not made out;
* Some information was validly exempt under s35 but the release of the majority was not contrary to the public interest;
* The personal information of patients, members of the public, Department staff raising concerns about Mr Griffin and Ward 4K staff was exempt under s36, except job titles for Ward 4K staff;
* The personal information of Mr Griffin, except his personal address, telephone number or date of birth, and the work related personal information of other Department staff, union representatives and consultants is not exempt under s36 and is to be released to Ms Bianchi; and
* Some documents were out of scope of the request or publicly available and not required to be released.

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Damien Matcham, on behalf of Nigel Matcham, and Department of Justice (WorkSafe Tasmania) (May 2021)

Mr Nigel Matcham suffered a serious head injury while working at the chocolate factory at Cadbury Road in Claremont. His brother, Mr Damien Matcham, applied on behalf of Nigel to WorkSafe Tasmania (part of the Department of Justice) for documentation it held regarding Nigel. The Department released emails, letters, medical certificates, a workplace attendance record and, on internal review, medical reports. However, it decided four statements, each signed by another person working at the factory that night then provided to WorkSafe by the employer, Mondelez Australia Pty Ltd, were exempt in full under s36.

The Ombudsman's office consulted each author of a statement (which the Department had not done). One author opposed release of their statement. The Ombudsman considered the meaning of 'personal information' as defined in s5(1). He found that each statement contained some personal information, but parts of the statements were clearly not personal information. The Ombudsman considered the public interest test under s33 and Schedule 1 of the Act. He found only matter (m) in Schedule 1 weighed, in part, against release of one statement, given its author's objection. By contrast, a number of matters weighed in favour of disclosure (including, in part, matter (m)), given the significant interests of Nigel Matcham in obtaining the statements regarding the circumstances of his injury. The Ombudsman determined the public interest test required disclosure of all four statements in full, so reversed the Department's decision regarding the statements.

The Department made no submission on the preliminary/draft decision under s48(1)(a). It noted that the 'matter dates back to 2017 and the Department now, as a general rule, releases such witness statement [sic] as a matter of course for the reasons outlined in the decision.'

Damien Matcham, on behalf of Nigel Matcham, and Department of Justice (WorkSafe Tasmania) (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Adam Stanway and Tasmania Police (May 2021)

Mr Stanway sought information from Tasmania Police regarding its classification of the Warwick WFA1 bolt action rifle as a prohibited firearm and membership of its Firearms Categorisation Assessment Committee [FCAC]. Tasmania Police released some information regarding the decision to classify the WFA1 as a prohibited firearm, but claimed other information exempt under s35 or s36. Tasmania Police released information regarding most FCAC members, but not one who it had engaged from another jurisdiction. Tasmania Police decided that member's information was exempt under s34 and/or s36.

During the Ombudsman's external review, Tasmania Police agreed to the release of that member's name and biographic information, after his consent. The Ombudsman therefore determined that information was not exempt under s34 or s36. That had been Mr Stanway's main concern.

Mr Stanway agreed he did not require personal information of FCAC members contained in emails between them, beyond that already released to him by Tasmania Police or by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth). Due to that and s12(3)(c)(i), the Ombudsman was able to finalise the application on the basis of its scope and without determining the exemptions claimed by Tasmania Police pursuant to s35.

Adam Stanway and Tasmania Police (PDF, 243.7 KB)

Z, C and the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (March 2021)

In May 2018, C made an application to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (the Department) for assessed disclosure, which included a request for copies of commercial filming agreements approved between 1 January 2013 and 21 May 2018 in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area.  An application Z had made through his media company was found to be responsive to the request and he was consulted under s36(2) and s37(2) by the Department.  Z did not object to the release of his commercial filming application but was concerned about the release of an associated email which he did not consider to be in the public interest. The Department decided that the email should be released to C, with Z’s personal information redacted. Z sought an internal review of this decision, which upheld the original decision except for one sentence, which was also redacted. Z then sought external review of this decision. The Ombudsman considered that the Department’s redactions struck an appropriate balance between releasing information about commercial filming agreements approved in public spaces and protecting Z’s personal information. The Ombudsman determined that the email should be released to C in the redacted form provided to Z in the Department’s internal review decision.

Z, C and the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (PDF, 216.3 KB)

X, Y and Tasmania Police (March 2021)

X alleges he was sexually abused as a child by an older man, Y. Y was charged with indecent assault (of a child) but this was discontinued. X applied to Tasmania Police for assessed disclosure  of information relating to the indecent assault investigation and prosecution, as he was seeking to make a civil claim against Y. Tasmania Police consulted Y under s36(2) when considering whether to release a transcript of his record of interview and associated signed notes in relation to the matter. Y objected to the release, but Tasmania Police decided that the documents were not exempt information under s36 and should be provided to X with the personal information of Y and other alleged victims redacted. Y sought internal review of the decision and Tasmania Police affirmed its original decision. Y sought external review of Tasmania Police's internal review decision to release the information to X.

The Ombudsman considered Y’s objections and relevant public interest factors. He concluded that Y’s record of interview and associated signed notes should be released to X in the redacted form provided to Y with the Tasmania Police internal review decision. This would not be contrary to the public interest.

X, Y and Tasmania Police (PDF, 175.8 KB)

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (February 2021)

Mr Stott requested information from Hydro Tasmania ('Hydro') regarding the fault in the Basslink cable which caused it to shut down in 2015. Hydro released some information to Mr Stott but refused the majority of his request on the basis that it considered that: the information was already publicly available (s12); the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert Hydro’s resources from its other work (s19); or the information was exempt (under a section noted below). Mr Stott sought external review of this decision.

Late in the external review process, Mr Stott agreed to redaction of some personal information relating to personnel internal or external to Hydro. Hence, while the reasons consider exemptions claimed under s36, ultimately a s36 review decision was not required.

The Ombudsman found that:

1. He does not have the power to review a decision under s12 to refuse to provide information which is already publicly available.

2. Hydro had not complied with the requirements of s19 to give Mr Stott a reasonable opportunity to consult with it to refine his request to a form which would not substantially and unreasonably divert its resources. Mr Stott’s request was returned to Hydro to reassess under the Act.

3. Exemptions claimed under s31 (legal professional privilege) should be varied, releasing additional documents to Mr Stott.

4. Exemptions claimed under s37 (information relating to the business affairs of a third party) and s38 (information relating to the business affairs of a public authority) were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

5. The exemption claimed over a document under s39 (information obtained in confidence) was not made out, but the document was otherwise exempt under s30 (information relating to the enforcement of the law).

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction (January 2021)

The applicant sought four incoming ministerial briefs prepared for Minister Barnett upon his appointment as Minister for Resources and Minister for Building and Construction. The briefs were from the Department of State Growth and the Department of Justice. Minister Barnett decided the briefs were entirely exempt pursuant to s27 and/or s35. In relation to s27, Minister Barnett asserted that any factual information contained in the briefs could be located by other means such as departmental websites and annual reports. In relation to s35, the Minister argued that the public interest in protecting the deliberative process outweighed the public interest in release of the information. Ms White applied for external review, asserting that much of the information could not be publicly located. Ms White further submitted that the public interest test had been incorrectly applied in the decision.


The Ombudsman varied the Minister’s decision, determining that most of the information in the ministerial briefings was ‘purely factual information’ within the meaning of s27(4) and s35(2). As such, that information was not exempt and should be released to the applicant. A table overview of [then] ‘current prosecutions and significant investigations’ under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 was now no longer: current; nor exempt under s30.

The Ombudsman agreed that some information was exempt under: s26(1)(d); s27; or (after applying the public interest test, only the name of the mother of a deceased worker) s36.

Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction  (PDF, 3.2 MB)

T and Tasmania Police (June 2020)

T sought information in relation to her complaint to police about an alleged abuser. Tasmania Police processed the request and found most of the information to be exempt. This was mainly on the basis it involved information relating to the enforcement of the law, information subject to legal professional privilege, internal information, or personal information of other people. The Ombudsman considered the decision of Tasmania Police and, while mostly upholding it, held that some further information should be released to T.

T and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 3.0 MB)

George Lane and Tasmania Police (April 2020)

Dr George Lane is a scientist who had been undertaking some consultancy work for which he ordered equipment from China. Tasmania Police was alerted to a parcel potentially containing glassware consistent with drug manufacture. A search warrant was issued and Dr Lane's property was searched. He sought information from the Police Service relating to the incident. Tasmania Police exempted much of the material as it related to the enforcement of the law, or for other reasons such as internal deliberative and personal information. While most of the information remained exempt, the Ombudsman made some variations to the Police Service’s decision.

George Lane and Tasmania Police  (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Louise Grahame and City of Hobart (March 2020)

Louise Grahame ran a stall at the Salamanca Market. Conflict between Ms Grahame and a number of other stallholders saw complaints made to the Council, which manages the market, by other stallholders about Ms Grahame. She sought copies of these complaints and emails relating to her and the market. The Council released a large amount of information but exempted in full or part various documents it claimed were internal deliberative information or information obtained by Council in confidence. It also redacted some personal information. The Ombudsman determined that most of the information was not exempt, including the identities of stallholders who had made complaints about Ms Grahame. While the latter was personal information, the public interest, including reasons of procedural fairness, entitled Ms Grahame to know the identities of those who had complained about her. However, a complainant's argument that their telephone number and personal email address were exempt information was upheld.

Louise Grahame and City of Hobart  (PDF, 13.4 MB)

Richard Webb and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (January 2020)

Mr Webb sought information from the Department in relation to the development proposal on Halls Island, Lake Malbena. The request sought a range of information that primarily included some leases for Halls Island and some documents to the relevant Minister.

One of the core parts of this review was whether or not the two leases sought for Halls Island was information obtained in confidence as claimed by the Department. The Ombudsman overturned this in full on the basis the Department's own lease documents could not constitute information obtained in confidence that, if released, would impair its ability to obtain similar information in the future.

Richard Webb and DPIPWE (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Graham Gourlay and UTAS (December 2019)

At the time of the request for information, Mr Gourlay was a student at UTAS. He had applied to the ethics committee for approval to undertake some research. The approval was denied. Mr Gourlay sought the names of the members of the ethics committee. The University denied this claiming it was exempt information under s36 and that the public interest test did not support its released. The Ombudsman overturned this decision.

Graham Gourlay and UTAS  (PDF, 1.0 MB)

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (October 2019)

Mr Atkin, an ABC journalist, submitted a request to Tasmania Police seeking information in relation to the gun trafficking trade in Tasmania in February 2015. Nearly 300 pages of information were claimed exempt under a range of different sections given the sensitivity of the information. The application of the various sections was largely supported by this office with a few minor changes to Tasmania Police’s decision.

Michael Atkin and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Bryan Green MP and Department of Treasury and Finance (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.

Bryan Green and Department of Treasury and Finance (PDF, 700.3 KB)

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (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.

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 1.8 MB)

A and Tasmania Police (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.

A and Tasmania Police (PDF, 97.5 KB)

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (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.

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (PDF, 500.8 KB)

Timothy Kirkwood and Tasmanian Planning Commission (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.

Timothy Kirkwood and Tasmanian Planning Commission (PDF, 722.1 KB)

Cassy O'Connor MP and Department  of Natural Resources and Environment (14 April 2022)

Ms Cassy O’Connor MP made a request for information under the Right to Information Act 2009 to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (the Department) in May 2018, seeking copies of Reserve Activity Assessments (RAAs) regarding proposed developments in Tasmanian national parks and reserves. On 3 April 2019, the Department released a decision to Ms O’Connor regarding the RAA for the Maydena Bike Park and decided that it was exempt in full pursuant to ss36, 37 and 39. Ms O’Connor sought external review and the Department was directed to undertake an internal review. On 10 May 2019, the Department released a further decision which also exempted all the relevant information in full pursuant to s39 (or s37 in the alternative).

The Ombudsman considered that the majority of the 184 page RAA should be released, except for 15 pages which were actually likely to expose the Maydena Bike Park proponent to competitive disadvantage. Accordingly, he determined that:

*Exemptions claimed pursuant to s39 were not made out; and
*Exemptions claimed pursuant to s37 were varied.

Cassy O'Connor MP and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (14 April 2022)

Robert Vellacott and Devonport City Council (April 2022)

In October 2018, Mr Robert Vellacott made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the Devonport City Council seeking information about the Providore Place development (now re-named Market Square Pavillion). Council released a decision which provided some explanation of details regarding Council expenditure and contributions to the project, but refused under ss32 and 37 of the Act to provide the majority of information sought, including the signed lease agreement between it and Providore Place Devonport Pty Ltd, any amendments to that lease, and individual figures for fit-out of tenancies. This decision was affirmed on internal review on 24 December 2018. Mr Vellacott sought external review of the exemptions applied to the information and whether a sufficient search for information responsive to his request had been made by Council.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed by Council pursuant to s32 of the Act  were varied, as the signed lease agreement was not exempt;
  • Exemptions claimed by Council pursuant to s37 of the Act were upheld; and
  • There had been a sufficient search for relevant information by Council.

Robert Vellacott and Devonport City Council

C and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (December 2021)

In May 2018, C made an application to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (the Department) for assessed disclosure, seeking copies of commercial filming agreements and drone use approved between 1 January 2013 and 21 May 2018 in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area. Consultation occurred with the commercial flying agreement applicants under s36(2) and s37(2). Following this consultation, the names and personal information relating to some entities applying for filming were redacted under s36, as well as the personal information of some Departmental staff. C sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that the Department’s use of s36 should be varied. Some personal information of contact people listen on the commercial filming applications was validly exempt, but the Department had not discharged its onus under s47(4) to show why the names and Australian Business Numbers of some commercial entities, and the personal information of some Departmental staff, should be exempt under s36.

C and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (PDF, 182.5 KB)

Rhiana Whitson and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) (May 2021)

Ms Whitson (a journalist for the ABC) sought information from the Department about the death of 16 polo ponies in January 2018 which were transported on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. The Department refused to provide any information responsive to the request, considering it fully exempt pursuant to s30(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act 2009, as information relating to the enforcement of the law, on the basis of an ongoing investigation and potential prosecutions relating to the incident. Since the Department’s original decision, charges have been laid under the Animal Welfare Act 1993 in relation to the incident and their prosecution remains ongoing.

The Ombudsman predominantly upheld the Department’s decision but found that some information was not exempt, consistent with a previous external review decision in Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (March 2019). This information was nonetheless not required to be provided to Ms Whitson, as it was otherwise available under s12(3)(c)(i).

Rhiana Whitson and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) (PDF, 162.3 KB)

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (February 2021)

Mr Stott requested information from Hydro Tasmania ('Hydro') regarding the fault in the Basslink cable which caused it to shut down in 2015. Hydro released some information to Mr Stott but refused the majority of his request on the basis that it considered that: the information was already publicly available (s12); the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert Hydro’s resources from its other work (s19); or the information was exempt (under a section noted below). Mr Stott sought external review of this decision.

Late in the external review process, Mr Stott agreed to redaction of some personal information relating to personnel internal or external to Hydro. Hence, while the reasons consider exemptions claimed under s36, ultimately a s36 review decision was not required.

The Ombudsman found that:

1. He does not have the power to review a decision under s12 to refuse to provide information which is already publicly available.

2. Hydro had not complied with the requirements of s19 to give Mr Stott a reasonable opportunity to consult with it to refine his request to a form which would not substantially and unreasonably divert its resources. Mr Stott’s request was returned to Hydro to reassess under the Act.

3. Exemptions claimed under s31 (legal professional privilege) should be varied, releasing additional documents to Mr Stott.

4. Exemptions claimed under s37 (information relating to the business affairs of a third party) and s38 (information relating to the business affairs of a public authority) were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

5. The exemption claimed over a document under s39 (information obtained in confidence) was not made out, but the document was otherwise exempt under s30 (information relating to the enforcement of the law).

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Nick McKim and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (December 2019)

In June 2014, the Tasmanian Government called for expressions of interest for developments in Tasmanian national parks. Senator McKim requested the proposed locations these developments in November 2014. The Department claimed this information was exempt as it was obtained in confidence and that it was not in the public interest to release it to the public. The Ombudsman overturned this decision and the list was released to Senator McKim.

Nick McKim and DPIPWE (PDF, 6.0 MB)

Environment Tasmania and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (November 2019)

Environment Tasmania asked the Department to provide a range of information about fin-fish farming around Tasmania. The first response was a possible refusal under s19. This was due to the size and complexity of what has been sought. The scope was revised and focused on a smaller sub-set of information about Okehampton Bay. The Department refused its release claiming it would expose a third party to competitive disadvantage under s37. The Ombudsman set this decision aside. While s37 might have been able to apply, it did not satisfy the public interest test.

Environment Tasmania and DPIPWE  (PDF, 2.5 MB)

Christine Smart and City of Launceston

Ms Smart requested information relating to the legal costs incurred by Council in relation to her property, specifically her fence line that bordered an alleyway, that had historically been there for decades. A review of the boundaries identified the discrepancy and Ms Smart was asked to correct it.

Ms Smart's application for assessed disclosure sought the the amount of legal costs incurred by Council after she challenged Council's decision. This matter primarily looks at whether or not the legal costs incurred constitute privileged information.

Christine Smart and City of Launceston (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (March 2019)

Ms Squires (a journalist with NewsCorp) sought information from the Department about the death of 16 ponies on the Spirit of Tasmania. This was a serious incident and sparked a lot of interest among the media and the public. This is an interesting matter in that a strong public interest does not necessarily guarantee release of information in the right circumstances. The Department relied on exemptions due to enforcement of the law, third party business information, and information obtained in confidence. The decision only upholds those exemptions relating to the enforcement of the law and overturns the others.

Mandy Squires and DPIPWE (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Tim Baird and City of Launceston (November 2017)

Mr Baird requested information relating to the City of Launceston's plan to upgrade the Sea Port Boardwalk.  Specifically, Mr Baird sought information leading to the appointment of Darcon Pty Ltd as the successful tenderer.

This decision considered the points of 'competitive disadvantage' under s37 and the balance between public interest and deliberative information.

Tim Baird and City of Launceston (November 2017) (PDF, 689.3 KB)

Environment Tasmania and Environment Protection Agency (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.

Environment Tasmania and Environment Protection Agency (PDF, 1.6 MB)

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (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.

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 1.8 MB)

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (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.

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (PDF, 974.8 KB)

Clive Stott and TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (June 2022)

On 16 March 2019, Mr Clive Stott made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 to TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (TT-Line). He sought air quality monitoring reports in relation to the Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II, following the deaths of 16 polo ponies on a truck which travelled on one of the vessels in 2018. TT-Line issued a decision on 9 May 2019 to refuse the majority of Mr Stott’s request on the basis that it considered that:

  • the disclosure of the information would prejudice an ongoing investigation into the deaths of the ponies (s30);
  • the information contains personal information of a person other than Mr Stott (s36); and
  • the release of the information would expose TT-Line to competitive disadvantage (s38).

This decision was upheld at internal review and Mr Stott sought external review of that decision.

The Ombudsman determined that exemptions claimed under ss30, 36 and 38 were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

Clive Stott and TT-Line Company Pty Ltd  (June 2022) (PDF, 185.5 KB)

Trevor Burdon and Sustainable Timber Tasmania (June 2022)

Mr Trevor Burdon invested in the Managed Investment Schemes (MIS) regarding plantations grown by Gunns Plantations Limited (Gunns) on land managed by Forestry Tasmania, now Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT). When Gunns became insolvent in 2013, legal disputes arose between STT and the liquidators for Gunns regarding issues impacting Mr Burdon. On 7 December 2018, Mr Burdon made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) seeking information regarding the legal settlement of the dispute and alleged ‘gross underpayment’ of MIS investors by STT in that settlement. On 17 April 2019, STT released a decision to Mr Burdon which found that all information responsive to his request was exempt from release pursuant to ss31, 35, 37, 38 and 40 of the Act. Mr Burdon sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s31 were varied;
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s38 were varied; and
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to ss35, 37 and 40 were not required to be assessed, as the relevant information was otherwise exempt.

Trevor Burdon and Sustainable Timber Tasmania (June 2022) (PDF, 193.1 KB)

Alexandra Humphries and University of Tasmania (February 2022)

The University of Tasmania purchased the former Fountainside, MidCity and Theatre Royal hotels in central Hobart and expressed its intention to convert the properties to student accommodation. Plans to convert the ‘Old Commerce Building’ in French Street, Sandy Bay to student accommodation were also reported in the media.

On 12 February 2019, Ms Alexandra Humphries, a journalist with the ABC, made an application to the University under the Right to Information Act 2009 for information regarding the purchase price of the Fountainside Hotel and business, refurbishment costs of the Fountainside, MidCity and Theatre Royal hotels, engineering reports regarding the French Street property and the amount the University paid in rates to the Hobart City Council. Except for an Occupancy Permit relating to the French Street property, the University did not disclose any information responsive to Ms Humphries’ request, claiming the information was exempt under s38(1)(ii). It maintained this position on internal review. Ms Humphries sought external review on 14 May 2019.

The Ombudsman determined that the University’s use of s38 should be varied and that its use of s39, in the alternative, was not made out. Some information regarding the refurbishment costs for the Fountainside and Theatre Royal hotels was found to be exempt under s38, but the Department had not discharged its onus under s47(4) to show why the remaining information should not be disclosed.

Alexandra Humphries and University of Tasmania (PDF, 232.9 KB)

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (February 2021)

Mr Stott requested information from Hydro Tasmania ('Hydro') regarding the fault in the Basslink cable which caused it to shut down in 2015. Hydro released some information to Mr Stott but refused the majority of his request on the basis that it considered that: the information was already publicly available (s12); the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert Hydro’s resources from its other work (s19); or the information was exempt (under a section noted below). Mr Stott sought external review of this decision.

Late in the external review process, Mr Stott agreed to redaction of some personal information relating to personnel internal or external to Hydro. Hence, while the reasons consider exemptions claimed under s36, ultimately a s36 review decision was not required.

The Ombudsman found that:

1. He does not have the power to review a decision under s12 to refuse to provide information which is already publicly available.

2. Hydro had not complied with the requirements of s19 to give Mr Stott a reasonable opportunity to consult with it to refine his request to a form which would not substantially and unreasonably divert its resources. Mr Stott’s request was returned to Hydro to reassess under the Act.

3. Exemptions claimed under s31 (legal professional privilege) should be varied, releasing additional documents to Mr Stott.

4. Exemptions claimed under s37 (information relating to the business affairs of a third party) and s38 (information relating to the business affairs of a public authority) were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

5. The exemption claimed over a document under s39 (information obtained in confidence) was not made out, but the document was otherwise exempt under s30 (information relating to the enforcement of the law).

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Graeme Gilmour and TT-Line (January 2020)

Mr Gilmour runs a caravan park in Tasmania's north west. Mr Gilmour has noticed changes over the years and so he sought information from the TT-Line in relation to the number of recreational vehicles that might be traveling to Tasmania.

TT-Line refused this information on the basis that, if its cargo carrying capacity and freight movements were revealed, it would expose it to competitive disadvantage. The Ombudsman overturned this decision and determined the information should be released.

Graeme Gilmour and TT-Line (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022)

Mr Graham Murray is a supporter of the proposal to construct and operate a cable car on kunanyi/Mount Wellington in Hobart. On 22 August 2018, Mr Murray submitted a request for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the City of Hobart (Council). He sought information on a range of issues regarding the cable car project.

On 27 September 2018, Council released a large amount of information to Mr Murray, but refused to assess part of his application under s10 and claimed a further 324 pages were exempt pursuant to ss31, 35, 36 and 39. A second decision was released on 24 October 2018, following consultation under s36(2), and a further part of Mr Murray’s request was refused under s19. A final decision was released on 9 November 2018, which released further information and refused the remaining part of Mr Murray’s request, as there was no recognised list of ‘cable car or anti cable car websites’ to enable the information to be collated. Mr Murray then sought external review of all of Council’s decisions.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • He had no power to review Council’s decision under s10 and it remained unchanged;
  • Council’s use of s19 was affirmed;
  • Council’s use of section 31 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s35 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s36 was affirmed; and
  • Council's use of s39 was varied.

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022) (PDF, 255.9 KB)

Cassy O'Connor MP and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (14 April 2022)

Ms Cassy O’Connor MP made a request for information under the Right to Information Act 2009 to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (the Department) in May 2018, seeking copies of Reserve Activity Assessments (RAAs) regarding proposed developments in Tasmanian national parks and reserves. On 3 April 2019, the Department released a decision to Ms O’Connor regarding the RAA for the Maydena Bike Park and decided that it was exempt in full pursuant to ss36, 37 and 39. Ms O’Connor sought external review and the Department was directed to undertake an internal review. On 10 May 2019, the Department released a further decision which also exempted all the relevant information in full pursuant to s39 (or s37 in the alternative).

The Ombudsman considered that the majority of the 184 page RAA should be released, except for 15 pages which were actually likely to expose the Maydena Bike Park proponent to competitive disadvantage. Accordingly, he determined that:

*Exemptions claimed pursuant to s39 were not made out; and
*Exemptions claimed pursuant to s37 were varied.

Cassy O'Connor MP and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (14 April 2022)

Alexandra Humphries and University of Tasmania (February 2022)

The University of Tasmania purchased the former Fountainside, MidCity and Theatre Royal hotels in central Hobart and expressed its intention to convert the properties to student accommodation. Plans to convert the ‘Old Commerce Building’ in French Street, Sandy Bay to student accommodation were also reported in the media.

On 12 February 2019, Ms Alexandra Humphries, a journalist with the ABC, made an application to the University under the Right to Information Act 2009 for information regarding the purchase price of the Fountainside Hotel and business, refurbishment costs of the Fountainside, MidCity and Theatre Royal hotels, engineering reports regarding the French Street property and the amount the University paid in rates to the Hobart City Council. Except for an Occupancy Permit relating to the French Street property, the University did not disclose any information responsive to Ms Humphries’ request, claiming the information was exempt under s38(1)(ii). It maintained this position on internal review. Ms Humphries sought external review on 14 May 2019.

The Ombudsman determined that the University’s use of s38 should be varied and that its use of s39, in the alternative, was not made out. Some information regarding the refurbishment costs for the Fountainside and Theatre Royal hotels was found to be exempt under s38, but the Department had not discharged its onus under s47(4) to show why the remaining information should not be disclosed.

Alexandra Humphries and University of Tasmania  (PDF, 232.9 KB)

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022)

Mr Simon Cameron owns a sheep farming property in central Tasmania. Allegations were made against his farm manager by officers of the then Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, now the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (the Department), regarding whether the management of feral deer was in breach of the Wildlife (General) Regulations 2010. This eventually led to the farm manager lodging a complaint against the Department with the Integrity Commission and an investigation by the Department into whether misconduct had been committed by its officers. Mr Cameron made an application in November 2017 for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) seeking the investigation report and associated documentation. The Department released a decision on 12 December 2017, finding all 766 pages found to be responsive to the request were exempt from disclosure under ss30, 31, 35, 36 and 39 of the Act. Mr Cameron then sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s30 were primarily not made out, but some information was validly exempt under s30(1)(a)(ii);
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s31 were upheld; and
  • Some information was validly exempt under ss35, 36 and 39 but the release of the remainder was not contrary to the public interest.

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022) (PDF, 497.8 KB)

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (November 2021)

Ms Camille Bianchi is a freelance journalist who sought information from the Department of Health regarding the response to allegations of misconduct from its former employee at Ward 4K of the Launceston General Hospital, nurse James Griffin. The Department released a decision on 22 July 2020 on the 104 pages of information it located responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, determining that all documents were exempt pursuant to ss35, 36 and 39 of the Right to Information Act 2009. Ms Bianchi then sought external review of this decision.

During the external review process, the Department reconsidered some of its proposed exemptions and located additional documents responsive to Ms Bianchi’s request, which had not previously been assessed.

The Ombudsman ordered that:
* Exemptions claimed by the Department under ss30 and 39 are not made out;
* Some information was validly exempt under s35 but the release of the majority was not contrary to the public interest;
* The personal information of patients, members of the public, Department staff raising concerns about Mr Griffin and Ward 4K staff was exempt under s36, except job titles for Ward 4K staff;
* The personal information of Mr Griffin, except his personal address, telephone number or date of birth, and the work related personal information of other Department staff, union representatives and consultants is not exempt under s36 and is to be released to Ms Bianchi; and
* Some documents were out of scope of the request or publicly available and not required to be released.

Camille Bianchi and the Department of Health (PDF, 298.0 KB)

Rhiana Whitson and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) (May 2021)

Ms Whitson (a journalist for the ABC) sought information from the Department about the death of 16 polo ponies in January 2018 which were transported on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. The Department refused to provide any information responsive to the request, considering it fully exempt pursuant to s30(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act 2009, as information relating to the enforcement of the law, on the basis of an ongoing investigation and potential prosecutions relating to the incident. Since the Department’s original decision, charges have been laid under the Animal Welfare Act 1993 in relation to the incident and their prosecution remains ongoing.

The Ombudsman predominantly upheld the Department’s decision but found that some information was not exempt, consistent with a previous external review decision in Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (March 2019). This information was nonetheless not required to be provided to Ms Whitson, as it was otherwise available under s12(3)(c)(i).

Rhiana Whitson and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) (PDF, 162.3 KB)

Elaine Anderson and Director of Inland Fisheries (April 2021)

Ms Anderson applied for information about the lease of the Salmon Ponds heritage property to Nekon Pty Ltd. The Director of Inland Fisheries decided that: the lease was exempt in full under s39 (information obtained in confidence); and it was contrary to the public interest disclose it.

The Ombudsman determined that the lease (which included the grant of a licence) was not exempt information as two requirements of s39 were not satisfied. Firstly, disclosure of the lease under the Act would not divulge information communicated in confidence to a public authority: s39(1). Secondly, its disclosure would not be reasonably likely to impair the ability of a public authority to obtain similar information in the future: s39(1)(b). Neither was s39(1)(a) applicable. The Ombudsman, therefore, did not need to determine the public interest test under s33. However, he indicated that, had he needed to do so, he may well have differed from the Director's conclusion that it was contrary to the public interest to disclose the lease.

Elaine Anderson and Director of Inland Fisheries  (PDF, 200.1 KB)

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (February 2021)

Mr Stott requested information from Hydro Tasmania ('Hydro') regarding the fault in the Basslink cable which caused it to shut down in 2015. Hydro released some information to Mr Stott but refused the majority of his request on the basis that it considered that: the information was already publicly available (s12); the work involved in providing the information would substantially and unreasonably divert Hydro’s resources from its other work (s19); or the information was exempt (under a section noted below). Mr Stott sought external review of this decision.

Late in the external review process, Mr Stott agreed to redaction of some personal information relating to personnel internal or external to Hydro. Hence, while the reasons consider exemptions claimed under s36, ultimately a s36 review decision was not required.

The Ombudsman found that:

1. He does not have the power to review a decision under s12 to refuse to provide information which is already publicly available.

2. Hydro had not complied with the requirements of s19 to give Mr Stott a reasonable opportunity to consult with it to refine his request to a form which would not substantially and unreasonably divert its resources. Mr Stott’s request was returned to Hydro to reassess under the Act.

3. Exemptions claimed under s31 (legal professional privilege) should be varied, releasing additional documents to Mr Stott.

4. Exemptions claimed under s37 (information relating to the business affairs of a third party) and s38 (information relating to the business affairs of a public authority) were not made out and relevant documents should be released to Mr Stott.

5. The exemption claimed over a document under s39 (information obtained in confidence) was not made out, but the document was otherwise exempt under s30 (information relating to the enforcement of the law).

Clive Stott and Hydro Tasmania (PDF, 262.1 KB)

Debbie Wisby / Jennifer Crawford and Department of Premier and Cabinet (August 2020)

The Glamorgan Spring Bay Council’s General Manager (GM) conducted an investigation into an alleged breach of confidentiality. Two Councillors applied for all information relating to or touching upon: the investigation; or contact regarding it between the GM and specified officers of the Department’s Local Government Division (LGD). The Department released most of the information, but not emails in which the GM requested, and an officer of the LGD provided, advice regarding the investigation. These were claimed to be exempt pursuant to s35(1)(b) and, on internal review, s39(1)(b).

The Ombudsman considered the emails under both s35(1)(b) and s39(1)(b). It was arguable they came within these exemptions. However, the Ombudsman was not satisfied disclosure would be reasonably likely to impair the ability of the LGD to obtain similar information in the future, as required for exemption under s39(1)(b). Both sections are subject to the s33 public interest test. After considering a range of relevant matters, the Ombudsman determined that the emails should be disclosed as this would not harm the public interest.

Debbie Wisby / Jennifer Crawford and Department of Premier and Cabinet  (PDF, 133.7 KB)

Ivan Dean MLC and Department of Health (June 2020)

The Department proposed, in a regulatory impact statement (RIS), new laws regarding e-cigarettes, tobacco licensing and smoking. It published most submissions on the RIS, but not six marked confidential. Ivan Dean MLC applied for those six submissions. The Department refused to release them. On internal review, Mr Dean sought to narrow the scope of his application to submissions by tobacco companies. The Department contested his ability to do so, reviewed all six submissions and again refused to release any. The Ombudsman determined that: an applicant is entitled to limit the scope of information sought on internal review; and the one submission by a tobacco company should be released in full. Although marked 'Private and Confidential', the submission was not, in law, ‘communicated in confidence’. Nor would its release impair the Department's ability to obtain similar information in the future. Furthermore, non-disclosure would be antithetical to Australia’s international treaty obligations and to the public interest.

Ivan Dean MLC and Department of Health  (PDF, 838.8 KB)

Louise Grahame and City of Hobart (March 2020)

Louise Grahame ran a stall at the Salamanca Market. Conflict between Ms Grahame and a number of other stallholders saw complaints made to the Council, which manages the market, by other stallholders about Ms Grahame. She sought copies of these complaints and emails relating to her and the market. The Council released a large amount of information but exempted in full or part various documents it claimed were internal deliberative information or information obtained by Council in confidence. It also redacted some personal information. The Ombudsman determined that most of the information was not exempt, including the identities of stallholders who had made complaints about Ms Grahame. While the latter was personal information, the public interest, including reasons of procedural fairness, entitled Ms Grahame to know the identities of those who had complained about her. However, a complainant's argument that their telephone number and personal email address were exempt information was upheld.

Louise Grahame and City of Hobart  (PDF, 13.4 MB)

Richard Webb and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (January 2020)

Mr Webb sought information from the Department in relation to the development proposal on Halls Island, Lake Malbena. The request sought a range of information that primarily included some leases for Halls Island and some documents to the relevant Minister.

One of the core parts of this review was whether or not the two leases sought for Halls Island was information obtained in confidence as claimed by the Department. The Ombudsman overturned this in full on the basis the Department's own lease documents could not constitute information obtained in confidence that, if released, would impair its ability to obtain similar information in the future.

Richard Webb and DPIPWE (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Nick McKim and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment  (December 2019)

In June 2014, the Tasmanian Government called for expressions of interest for developments in Tasmanian national parks. Senator McKim requested the proposed locations these developments in November 2014. The Department claimed this information was exempt as it was obtained in confidence and that it was not in the public interest to release it to the public. The Ombudsman overturned this decision and the list was released to Senator McKim.

Nick McKim and DPIPWE  (PDF, 6.0 MB)

Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (March 2019)

Ms Squires (a journalist with NewsCorp) sought information from the Department about the death of 16 ponies on the Spirit of Tasmania. This was a serious incident and sparked a lot of interest among the media and the public. This is an interesting matter in that a strong public interest does not necessarily guarantee release of information in the right circumstances. The Department relied on exemptions due to enforcement of the law, third party business information, and information obtained in confidence. The decision only upholds those exemptions relating to the enforcement of the law and overturns the others.

Mandy Squires and DPIPWE (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (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.

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 1.8 MB)

Environment Tasmania and Environment Protection Agency (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.

Environment Tasmania and Environment Protection Agency (PDF, 1.6 MB)

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (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.

Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (PDF, 974.8 KB)

Todd Dudley and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (May 2022)

Mr Todd Dudley, the president of the North East Bioregional Network Inc., made an application on 18 August 2018 under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (the Department) seeking information regarding the environmental impact of proposed mountain bike tracks in the St Helens area. The Department located nine pages of information responsive to his request and made a decision on 3 December 2018 to redact parts of the information pursuant to ss35 and 36. Mr Dudley sought internal review and the Department’s internal review decision of 29 March 2019 affirmed its original decision. Mr Dudley then sought external review on the bases that the exemptions claimed were not valid and that there had been an insufficient search for information responsive to his request.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • The Department’s search for information was sufficient; and
  • Exemptions claimed by the Department pursuant to ss35 and 36 were not made out.

Todd Dudley and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (PDF, 226.6 KB)

Cassy O'Connor MP and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (1 April 2022)

Ms Cassy O’Connor MP made a request for information under the Right to Information Act 2009 for correspondence regarding the health and welfare of animals being transported on the Spirit of Tasmania vessels. She refined her request to restrict it to correspondence between the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (the Department), TT-Line Pty Ltd and the office of the Minister for Primary Industries, following an indication from the Department that her request was likely to be refused, due to it being a substantial and unreasonable diversion of resources from its other work, unless this occurred. On 29 March 2019, the Department released a decision to Ms O’Connor in which it found that eight pages of information were responsive to her request and all were exempt from release pursuant to s30. Ms O’Connor sought external review under s45(1)(e), on the grounds that she believed an insufficient search for information had been carried out, due to the very small quantity of information assessed. The Ombudsman directed the Department conduct an internal review under s47(1)(f) and its fresh decision affirmed the finding of the original delegate, that the information responsive was exempt under s30, and refuted that there was any insufficiency of searching.

On external review, the Ombudsman determined that the Department had conducted a sufficient search for information responsive to Ms O’Connor’s request. He noted, however, that the issues raised on external review may have been resolved through more consistent communication with Ms O’Connor and a broader interpretation of the scope of her request by the Department.

Cassy O'Connor MP and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (1 April 2022)

Ivan Dean MLC and Department of Health (June 2020)

The Department proposed, in a regulatory impact statement (RIS), new laws regarding e-cigarettes, tobacco licensing and smoking. It published most submissions on the RIS, but not six marked confidential. Ivan Dean MLC applied for those six submissions. The Department refused to release them. On internal review, Mr Dean sought to narrow the scope of his application to submissions by tobacco companies. The Department contested his ability to do so, reviewed all six submissions and again refused to release any. The Ombudsman determined that: an applicant is entitled to limit the scope of information sought on internal review; and the one submission by a tobacco company should be released in full. Although marked 'Private and Confidential', the submission was not, in law, ‘communicated in confidence’. Nor would its release impair the Department's ability to obtain similar information in the future. Furthermore, non-disclosure would be antithetical to Australia’s international treaty obligations and to the public interest.

Ivan Dean MLC and Department of Health  (PDF, 838.8 KB)

Cassy O’Connor and Minister for Parks, Environment, and Heritage (April 2016)

The issue for determination was whether a decision made by the delegate of a Minister is subject to internal review under the Right to Information Act 2009 and whether the Ombudsman has jurisdiction under the Act to conduct an external review of such a decision. The review considered Sections 43, 44 and 45 of the Act and found that there was no right to internal review of such a decision and therefore no jurisdiction to accept an application for external review.

Cassy O’Connor and Minister for Parks, Environment, and Heritage (PDF, 171.9 KB)

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (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.

Richard Baines and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 1.8 MB)

A and Tasmania Police (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.

A and Tasmania Police (PDF, 97.5 KB)

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (December 2016)

Mr Billings (a journalist on ‘The Mercury’ newspaper) requested CCTV footage of an event at Ashley Youth Detention Centre in July 2016.  The Ombudsman determined that the footage should not be released, as various exemption grounds under s30(1) of the Right to Information Act 2009 were satisfied.  Under the Act, s30 exemptions are not subject to the public interest test at s33.

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 448.4 KB)