Ivan Dean MLC and Department of Health (June 2020)
The Department proposed, in a regulatory impact statement (RIS), new laws regarding e-cigarettes, tobacco licensing and smoking. It published most submissions on the RIS, but not six marked confidential. Ivan Dean MLC applied for those six submissions. The Department refused to release them. On internal review, Mr Dean sought to narrow the scope of his application to submissions by tobacco companies. The Department contested his ability to do so, reviewed all six submissions and again refused to release any. The Ombudsman determined that: an applicant is entitled to limit the scope of information sought on internal review; and the one submission by a tobacco company should be released in full. Although marked 'Private and Confidential', the submission was not, in law, ‘communicated in confidence’. Nor would its release impair the Department's ability to obtain similar information in the future. Furthermore, non-disclosure would be antithetical to Australia’s international treaty obligations and to the public interest.
Richard Webb and DPIPWE (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.
Nick McKim and DPIPWE (December 2019)
In June 2014, the Tasmanian Government called for expressions of interest for developments in Tasmanian national parks. Senator McKim requested the proposed locations these developments in November 2014. The Department claimed this information was exempt as it was obtained in confidence and that it was not in the public interest to release it to the public. The Ombudsman overturned this decision and the list was released to Senator McKim.
Mandy Squires and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (March 2019)
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.
Environment Tasmania and Environment Protection Agency (June 2017)
Environment Tasmania requested information about Huon Aquaculture’s Lonnavale Hatchery and its effect on the Russell River. Some information was released but the EPA considered that all other information was exempt under s39(1) of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Information obtained in confidence) in the first instance because it had been voluntarily provided by Huon. On review the Ombudsman determined that none of the remaining information was exempt under s39(1) as disclosure of the information would not be reasonably likely to impair the ability of a public authority or Minister to obtain similar information in the future: s39(1)(b). However, much of the information was found to be exempt under s37(1) (Information relating to business affairs of third party) and, whilst it was contrary to the public interest to release raw monitoring data, the Ombudsman determined that it was not contrary to release all other information.
Michael Atkin and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and the Environment (April 2017)
Mr Atkin (a journalist with the ABC) requested information in relation to a fish mortality event in Macquarie Harbour that occurred between 1 December 2014 and 28 February 2015. Some laboratory report information as to the probable cause of the fish mortality event was released by the Department on internal review. The Ombudsman determined that information relating to the reporting of the fish mortality event by the relevant enterprise to the Department was exempt under s37 of the Right to Information Act 2009 but that, in terms of s33, it was not contrary to the public interest to disclose this. By contrast, whilst the remaining laboratory report information was exempt under s39, it was contrary to the public interest to disclose any further information from this report.