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)

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.

Carlo Di Falco and Tasmania Police (PDF, 1.2 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)

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)

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.

S and Tasmania Police (PDF, 275.8 KB)

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.

Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (PDF, 2.2 MB)

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.

Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (PDF, 448.4 KB)

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.

Christine Smart and City of Launceston (PDF, 1.1 MB)