Application of Section 44(1) FOI Act
1. Does the relevant matter relate to the ‘personal affairs’ of a person?
Section 44(1) of the FOI Act makes it clear that this exemption applies to the personal affairs of a person, whether living or dead. Only a natural person has personal affairs, therefore the concept does not extend to companies, clubs or other organisations.1
Personal affairs means the affairs of or relating to the private aspects of a person's life.2 Information about an individual’s work or business does not usually qualify as matter concerning their personal affairs.3
In Stewart and Department of Transport,4 the Information Commissioner recognised a number of “grey areas” within the ambit of ‘personal affairs’. The Information Commissioner indicated that when attempting to determine whether matter is ‘personal affairs of a person’, it is appropriate to draw on principles from privacy law.5
2. Is disclosing the relevant matter in the public interest?
If the relevant matter concerns the personal affairs of a person other than the applicant and there are no public interest considerations favouring disclosure, the information qualifies for exemption under this provision. However, if there are public interest factors favouring disclosure, it is necessary to balance those factors to determine whether the matter should be disclosed.
1Stewart and Department of Transport (1993) 1 QAR 227 at paragraph 21.
2Stewart and Department of Transport (1993) 1 QAR 227 at paragraphs 54-55.
3Stewart and Department of Transport (1993) 1 QAR 227 at paragraph 27.
4Stewart and Department of Transport (1993) 1 QAR 227 at paragraphs 54-55.
5Stewart and Department of Transport (1993) 1 QAR 227 at paragraph 76.
Last updated: March 5, 2012