Key published decisions applying Section 27(3) and (4) FOI Act
The applicant sought access to documents relating to a departmental program (program). The Department of Education and Training (Department) entered into a contract with a private company (AP) to undertake the assessment, decision-making and review of grant recommendation processes for the program.
The Department provided partial access to a report produced by AP regarding the results of the program, subject to the deletion of personal details of third parties. The applicant was refused access to certain matter under section 27(3) of the FOI Act on the basis that the Department considered the information to be irrelevant to the access application.
The applicant submitted that;
- her application should be given a wide meaning in order to promote the objects of the FOI Act; and
- the Oxford Dictionary defines 'relevant' as 'bearing on or pertinent to' and therefore the entire report should be regarded as relevant to the terms of the application.
As 'relevant' is not defined in the FOI Act or Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld), the Information Commissioner was satisfied the ordinary meaning of the word should be considered. 
The relationship between the information and the terms of the application need not be direct. However, it must be relevant, in the sense of having a bearing upon or being pertinent to the terms of the application. 
The matter deleted from the report was not pertinent to, and did not have bearing on, the terms of the application and was therefore not considered relevant.
The terms of the application were very specific. Due to the precise terms in which the application was framed it was reasonable for the Department to consider that the applicant would accept the report as released, with the irrelevant matter deleted. 
The Information Commissioner was satisfied that: 
- the matter deleted from the released report was not relevant to the FOI application
- the Department was entitled under section 27(3) of the FOI Act to delete the irrelevant matter from the released report; and
- the Department was entitled under section 27(4) of the FOI Act to give access to the released report with the irrelevant matter deleted.
The applicant sought access to matter relating to complaints made against doctors. The Medical Board of Queensland (MBQ) found that some of the matter was irrelevant and deleted this information under section 27 of the FOI Act.
The Information Commissioner referred to analysis in Russell Island Development Association Incorporated and Department of Primary Industries and Energy,4 which considered the equivalent Commonwealth provision. In that case it was considered relevant to examine:
...whether disclosure of certain information might reasonably, as opposed to irrationally or absurdly, be considered or looked on as irrelevant to the request for access made under the Act.
The Information Commissioner further considered that the power of an agency or Minister to delete irrelevant matter is discretionary. 
Last updated: March 5, 2012