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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.