F and Department of Education (June 2022)
F and G are parents of a young son, A, who attended a school run by the Department of Education (the Department). F and G had concerns their son had been subjected to regular bullying by another boy, B. On 15 March 2018, F made an application under the Right to Information Act 2009 for information regarding A’s alleged bullying and the Department’s response to incidents and concerns raised by F and G.
On 14 June 2018, the Department released a decision to F which released some information and found the remainder to be exempt under ss27, 35 and 36. F sought internal review regarding the exemptions applied and disputing that all relevant documents had been located and assessed. On 9 August 2018, the Department released an internal review decision to F. It located and released some additional information, finding the remainder to be exempt for on the same bases as in the original decision. F sought external review, again disputing the exemptions applied and whether the Department had undertaken a sufficient search for information responsive to his request.
The Ombudsman determined that:
- Exemptions claimed pursuant to s27 were affirmed;
- Exemptions claimed pursuant to s35 were varied; and
- Exemptions claimed pursuant to s36 were affirmed.
He also determined that the Department did not conduct a sufficient search for information responsive to F’s request, but had taken appropriate steps to rectify the issues in searching by the conclusion of his external review.
Rebecca White MP and Minister Barnett, Minister for Resources, Minister for Building and Construction (January 2021)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.