Debbie Wisby / Jennifer Crawford and Department of Premier and Cabinet (August 2020)
The Glamorgan Spring Bay Council’s General Manager (GM) conducted an investigation into an alleged breach of confidentiality. Two Councillors applied for all information relating to or touching upon: the investigation; or contact regarding it between the GM and specified officers of the Department’s Local Government Division (LGD). The Department released most of the information, but not emails in which the GM requested, and an officer of the LGD provided, advice regarding the investigation. These were claimed to be exempt pursuant to s35(1)(b) and, on internal review, s39(1)(b).
The Ombudsman considered the emails under both s35(1)(b) and s39(1)(b). It was arguable they came within these exemptions. However, the Ombudsman was not satisfied disclosure would be reasonably likely to impair the ability of the LGD to obtain similar information in the future, as required for exemption under s39(1)(b). Both sections are subject to the s33 public interest test. After considering a range of relevant matters, the Ombudsman determined that the emails should be disclosed as this would not harm the public interest.
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.
Louise Grahame and City of Hobart (March 2020)
Louise Grahame ran a stall at the Salamanca Market. Conflict between Ms Grahame and a number of other stallholders saw complaints made to the Council, which manages the market, by other stallholders about Ms Grahame. She sought copies of these complaints and emails relating to her and the market. The Council released a large amount of information but exempted in full or part various documents it claimed were internal deliberative information or information obtained by Council in confidence. It also redacted some personal information. The Ombudsman determined that most of the information was not exempt, including the identities of stallholders who had made complaints about Ms Grahame. While the latter was personal information, the public interest, including reasons of procedural fairness, entitled Ms Grahame to know the identities of those who had complained about her. However, a complainant's argument that their telephone number and personal email address were exempt information was upheld.
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.
Richard Webb and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (January 2020)
Mr Webb sought information from the Department in relation to the development proposal on Halls Island, Lake Malbena. The request sought a range of information that primarily included some leases for Halls Island and some documents to the relevant Minister.
One of the core parts of this review was whether or not the two leases sought for Halls Island was information obtained in confidence as claimed by the Department. The Ombudsman overturned this in full on the basis the Department's own lease documents could not constitute information obtained in confidence that, if released, would impair its ability to obtain similar information in the future.
Damon Smith and Tasmania Police (October 2019)
Mr Smith sought information from Tasmania Police in relation to a complaint he had made. Specifically, he sought a copy of the investigation notes and details that resulted from his complaint.
Tasmania Police exempted some information and released other pieces directly to the applicant. There was some negotiation with Police during this review that resulted in Tasmania Police voluntarily releasing extra information. As a result there were very few pieces of information the Ombudsman determined should additionally be released to the applicant.
Sharon Bakewell and Tasmanian Police (August 2019)
Ms Bakewell's sister passed away in St Helens and an investigation was conducted by Tasmania Police. Ms Bakewell was not satisfied with some aspects and utilised the Right to Information Act to obtain information in assisting work out the cause of death. Ms Bakewell refutes the finding of suicide and believes more sinister actions are responsible. The Ombudsman determined that the information at hand was not exempt under s35 and the information as released in full.
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.
Tim Baird and City of Launceston (November 2017)
Mr Baird requested information relating to the City of Launceston's plan to upgrade the Sea Port Boardwalk. Specifically, Mr Baird sought information leading to the appointment of Darcon Pty Ltd as the successful tenderer.
This decision considered the points of 'competitive disadvantage' under s37 and the balance between public interest and deliberative information.
Bryan Green 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.
Patrick Billings and Department of Health and Human Services (January 2017)
On review, Mr Billings (a journalist on ‘The Mercury’ newspaper) requested the full Operational Review in relation to Ambulance Tasmania’s State Communications Centre power failure and shutdown in July 2015. The Ombudsman determined that parts of the Operational Review were subject to exemption under s35 of the Right to Information Act 2009 - internal deliberative document - and that it was contrary to the public interest to disclose this information.