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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.