Althaus and James Cook University
(2000 S0016, 5 June 2001)
The applicant had applied for access to parts of a document comprising the names of students at the University who had signed a petition in support of a particular subject and its lecturer.
The University and a number of the students who had signed the petition claimed that the matter in issue was exempt under s.42(1)(c) and s.44(1) of the FOI Act. The Information Commissioner dismissed the claim for exemption under s.42(1)(c) of the FOI Act.
In relation to the application of s.44(1), the Information Commissioner stated that he did not consider that the act of signing a petition could ordinarily be regarded as a private activity such as to bring it within the realm of a person's personal affairs. However, the Information Commissioner was satisfied that, in the particular circumstances of this case, disclosure of the students' names in the context in which they appeared on the petition, would incidentally disclose the fact of the students' enrolment in a course of private study at the University.
In accordance with the principles explained in BKR and Queensland University of Technology (1999) 5 QAR 70, the Information Commissioner found that disclosure of the students' names in that context would disclose information concerning the personal affairs of identifiable individuals. In the absence of any substantive public interest considerations favouring disclosure, the Information Commissioner found that the information was exempt matter under s.44(1) of the FOI Act.