Burke and Department of Families, Youth and Community Care; King (Third Party)

Application number:
1994 S0146
Decision date:
Friday, Dec 19, 1997
(1997) 4 QAR 205

Burke and Department of Families, Youth and Community Care; King (Third Party)
(1994 S0146, 19 December 1997) 

The applicant for access was a journalist with the ABC who sought access to matter held by the Department of Families, Youth and Community Care (the Department) in relation to the Cairns Anglican Youth Shelter and any other material in relation to Gordon Virgo King, a former Anglican Minister and Director of the shelter. 

The matter in issue concerned allegations of misconduct against Mr King.  The Department decided to give access to the matter, but to defer access until after the trial of a number of charges against Mr King.  At paragraph 7 of my reasons for decision, the Information Commissioner explained that the FOI Act conferred no legal authority to defer access on that basis.  By the time the charges had been heard, and Mr King had been acquitted, Mr King had been joined as a third party participant in the external review, and he objected to disclosure of the matter which the Department was prepared to disclose.

Mr King claimed that the matter was exempt under s.45(1)(c) of the FOI Act, on the basis that the matter concerned his business or professional affairs under s.45(1)(c) of the FOI Act.  The Information Commissioner decided that the matter in issue did not concern his business affairs.  The Information Commissioner also decided that divinity/theology would not be covered by the meaning of the phrase "professional affairs" in the context of s.45(1)(c) of the FOI Act.  Moreover, since Mr King had been removed from his former profession by the Anglican Church, he no longer had any 'professional affairs' which were capable of being adversely affected. 

The Information Commissioner found that most of the matter in issue was properly to be characterised as information concerning Mr King's personal affairs, for the purposes of s.44(1) of the FOI Act, since the matter concerned allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Mr King, and/or concerned his alleged sexual conduct.  However, the Information Commissioner decided that the public interest in accountability of the Department, for its supervision of the expenditure of public funds for child welfare/child protection, outweighed the prima facie exempt status of the matter in issue, and its disclosure would, on balance, be in the public interest.