07UKSD and Department of Environment and Resource Management
(310183, 23 December 2010)
Section 47(3)(b) of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld)(RTI Act)
Section 87(2) of the RTI Act
Public interest factors:
- Schedule 4, part 2, item 1 of the RTI Act
- Schedule 4, part 2, item 11 of the RTI Act
- Schedule 4, part 3, item 3 of the RTI Act
- Schedule 4, part 4, item 6(1) of the RTI Act
The access applicant made an application to the Department of Environment and Resource Management (Department) under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) for letters objecting to an application to close a section of road.
As the external review applicant authored one of the objection letters (Objection Letter), the Department consulted with them under section 37 of the RTI Act. The external review applicant indicated to the Department that they opposed the disclosure of the objection letter to the access applicant.
The Department decided to release the Objection Letter to the access applicant subject to the deletion of certain information which would identify the external review applicant.
The external review applicant applied to the Office of the Information Commissioner for external review of the Department’s decision on the basis that disclosure of any part of the Objection Letter to the access applicant would identify the external review applicant as the author of the letter and would consequently:
- threaten their personal safety
- lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding of their intentions
- prejudice the protection of their right to privacy which could be considered as unfair treatment.
The Right to Information Commissioner (RTI Commissioner) affirmed the Department’s decision and considered that the Objection Letter should be partially released to the access applicant subject to the deletion of certain identifying information, which would, on balance be contrary to the public interest to disclose.
The RTI Commissioner considered that the information in issue in the review comprised of the reasons provided by the external review applicant to the Department for objecting to the road closure application (Information in Issue) and did not identify the external review applicant.She therefore concluded that the public interest in protecting the external review applicant’s right to privacy did not apply in this case.
With respect to public interest factors favouring disclosure, the RTI Commissioner found that disclosure of the Information in Issue:
- would assist the access applicant to understand the background and contextual information that informed the Department’s decision in relation to the road closure issue; and
- could reasonably be expected to enhance the accountability of the Department in relation to the way in which it dealt with the road closure issue.
The RTI Commissioner found that, on balance, the public interest favoured the disclosure of the Information in Issue.