Section 55 of the RTI Act provides that an agency may neither confirm nor deny the existence of a type of document. The purpose of including a provision of this kind in information access legislation has been explained as follows:1
A particular problem that arises in relation to the giving of reasons and particulars … is the position of the decision-maker when … confronted with a request for a document which is manifestly exempt from disclosure, but where the character of the document is such that the mere acknowledgment of its existence, albeit accompanied by a denial of access, will itself cause the damage against which the exemption provision is designed to guard…
We agree that there will, on occasion, be a need for an agency to refuse to acknowledge the very existence of a document. However … it ought to be confined to … classes of documents which by their very nature are likely to be widely accepted as especially sensitive.
As the primary object of the RTI Act is to give a right of access to Queensland government information (subject to public interest considerations), this provision is only intended for exceptional situations where:2
Section 55 of the RTI Act provides that an agency is not required to give information as to the existence or non-existence of the documents containing ‘prescribed information’. This precondition must be satisfied before section 55 of the RTI Act may be relied upon.
‘Prescribed information’ is defined in schedule 6 of the RTI Act to include:
Last updated: November 20, 2013