Aries Tours Pty Ltd and Environmental Protection Agency
(2001 S0027, 28 March 2002)
This was a ‘reverse FOI’ application by Aries Tours challenging a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grant access (to a competitor of Aries Tours), under the FOI Act, to parts of two deeds of agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Aries Tours, setting out the terms and conditions upon which Aries Tours was permitted to take tour groups to the Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park. Aries Tours claimed that disclosure would be detrimental to its business interests, and claimed exemption under s.45(1)(b), s.45(1)(c), and/or s.46(1) of the FOI Act.
The Deputy Information Commissioner decided that none of the matter remaining in issue had a commercial value to Aries Tours that could reasonably be expected to be diminished by its disclosure under the FOI Act, and hence that it did not qualify for exemption under s.45(1)(b) of the FOI Act. He also decided that disclosure of the matter in issue could not reasonably be expected to have an adverse effect on the business, commercial or financial affairs of Aries Tours, or to prejudice the future supply of like information to government.
With respect to the exemption claims under s.46(1) of the FOI Act, the Deputy Information Commissioner decided that equity would not hold the EPA conscience-bound to refrain from disclosing the matter in issue, because that information should be available to any interested member of the public who wished to scrutinise how well the EPA was discharging its function of licensing, and supervising the performance of, commercial tour operators in National Parks, having regard to the legitimate public interest in the proper management and protection of a valuable, publicly owned, natural resource.