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.
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.
Alexandra Humphries and University of Tasmania (February 2022)
The University of Tasmania purchased the former Fountainside, MidCity and Theatre Royal hotels in central Hobart and expressed its intention to convert the properties to student accommodation. Plans to convert the ‘Old Commerce Building’ in French Street, Sandy Bay to student accommodation were also reported in the media.
On 12 February 2019, Ms Alexandra Humphries, a journalist with the ABC, made an application to the University under the Right to Information Act 2009 for information regarding the purchase price of the Fountainside Hotel and business, refurbishment costs of the Fountainside, MidCity and Theatre Royal hotels, engineering reports regarding the French Street property and the amount the University paid in rates to the Hobart City Council. Except for an Occupancy Permit relating to the French Street property, the University did not disclose any information responsive to Ms Humphries’ request, claiming the information was exempt under s38(1)(ii). It maintained this position on internal review. Ms Humphries sought external review on 14 May 2019.
The Ombudsman determined that the University’s use of s38 should be varied and that its use of s39, in the alternative, was not made out. Some information regarding the refurbishment costs for the Fountainside and Theatre Royal hotels was found to be exempt under s38, but the Department had not discharged its onus under s47(4) to show why the remaining information should not be disclosed.
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).
Graeme Gilmour and TT-Line (January 2020)
Mr Gilmour runs a caravan park in Tasmania's north west. Mr Gilmour has noticed changes over the years and so he sought information from the TT-Line in relation to the number of recreational vehicles that might be traveling to Tasmania.
TT-Line refused this information on the basis that, if its cargo carrying capacity and freight movements were revealed, it would expose it to competitive disadvantage. The Ombudsman overturned this decision and determined the information should be released.