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).
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.
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.
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.
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.