Geoffrey Swan and Huon Valley Council (June 2022)

On 18 October 2021, Mr Geoffrey Swan made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 to the Huon Valley Council (Council). He sought information relating to the investigation into the recruitment process of Council’s new General Manager, commissioned following controversy regarding the way Council managed a conflict of interest that arose during that process. Council issued a decision on 13 October 2021 to refuse the application in full, on the basis that it considered the information exempt due to it relating to:

  • legal professional privilege (s31); and
  • information related to closed meetings of council (s32).

Mr Swan then sought external review of Council’s decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Council’s use of s31 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s32 was varied; and
  • Information was found to be exempt pursuant to s35 (internal deliberative information).

Geoffrey Swan and Huon Valley Council (June 2022) (PDF, 193.9 KB)

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022)

Mr Graham Murray is a supporter of the proposal to construct and operate a cable car on kunanyi/Mount Wellington in Hobart. On 22 August 2018, Mr Murray submitted a request for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) to the City of Hobart (Council). He sought information on a range of issues regarding the cable car project.

On 27 September 2018, Council released a large amount of information to Mr Murray, but refused to assess part of his application under s10 and claimed a further 324 pages were exempt pursuant to ss31, 35, 36 and 39. A second decision was released on 24 October 2018, following consultation under s36(2), and a further part of Mr Murray’s request was refused under s19. A final decision was released on 9 November 2018, which released further information and refused the remaining part of Mr Murray’s request, as there was no recognised list of ‘cable car or anti cable car websites’ to enable the information to be collated. Mr Murray then sought external review of all of Council’s decisions.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • He had no power to review Council’s decision under s10 and it remained unchanged;
  • Council’s use of s19 was affirmed;
  • Council’s use of section 31 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s35 was varied;
  • Council’s use of s36 was affirmed; and
  • Council's use of s39 was varied.

Graham Murray and City of Hobart (June 2022) (PDF, 255.9 KB)

Trevor Burdon and Sustainable Timber Tasmania (June 2022)

Mr Trevor Burdon invested in the Managed Investment Schemes (MIS) regarding plantations grown by Gunns Plantations Limited (Gunns) on land managed by Forestry Tasmania, now Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT). When Gunns became insolvent in 2013, legal disputes arose between STT and the liquidators for Gunns regarding issues impacting Mr Burdon. On 7 December 2018, Mr Burdon made an application for assessed disclosure under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the Act) seeking information regarding the legal settlement of the dispute and alleged ‘gross underpayment’ of MIS investors by STT in that settlement. On 17 April 2019, STT released a decision to Mr Burdon which found that all information responsive to his request was exempt from release pursuant to ss31, 35, 37, 38 and 40 of the Act. Mr Burdon sought external review of this decision.

The Ombudsman determined that:

  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s31 were varied;
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to s38 were varied; and
  • Exemptions claimed pursuant to ss35, 37 and 40 were not required to be assessed, as the relevant information was otherwise exempt.

Trevor Burdon and Sustainable Timber Tasmania  (June 2022) (PDF, 193.1 KB)

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.

Simon Cameron and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (January 2022) (PDF, 497.8 KB)

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)

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)

The Mercury and City of Hobart

The information at issue was whether information contained in a memorandum of Council constituted legal professional privilege under s31.  This was in response to Council seeking legal advice relating to the Facebook parody page, "Hobart City Council".

The Mercury and City of Hobart (PDF, 124.7 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)

Dr Michael Powell and the University of Tasmania

Dr Powell submitted a request to UTAS after his contract was not continued. Dr Powell was of the view this was a result of a public comment he made that was contrary to the views of the then sitting member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic. Dr Powell sought information that UTAS claimed exempt as legal professional privilege.

Dr Michael Powell and the University of Tasmania (PDF, 754.3 KB)