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)