Burke and Gold Coast City Council
(1997 L0018, 17 November 1997)
The matter in issue comprised one line of information on page 2 of a six page document which had otherwise been disclosed to the applicant. The Information Commissioner rejected the Council's contention that the matter in issue was exempt matter under s.41(1) of the FOI Act. The Information Commissioner decided that its proper character was that of a statement of fact, and as such it was excluded from eligibility for exemption under s.41(1), by the operation of s.41(2)(b).
The Information Commissioner would not have been satisfied in any event that its disclosure was contrary to the public interest. The Information Commissioner also rejected the Council's contention that the matter in issue was exempt under s.48 of the FOI Act, since the Council could not refer the Information Commissioner to any statutory secrecy provision listed in Schedule 1 to the FOI Act, which appeared to have any application to the matter in issue. The Information Commissioner was critical of the Council's handling of this case, mainly because:
· The decisions made on behalf of the Council evidenced no attempt to comply with the statutory obligations (imposed on decision-makers by s.34(2)(f) and (g) of the FOI Act and s.27B of the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 Qld) to provide a written statement of reasons explaining the basis for a refusal of access. The decision under review failed to disclose any meaningful consideration of the questions which must be addressed in the application of s.41(1) and s.48 of the FOI Act.
· Although the Deputy Information Commissioner wrote to the Council explaining that no sufficient basis had been shown for the application of s.41(1) or s.48, and reminding it of the onus which an agency bears under s.81 of the FOI Act to justify its decision, the Council elected to lodge no evidence or submissions in support of its case, but maintained its claims for exemption under s.41(1) and s.48.
In the Information Commissioner's decision, it was commented on that the Council's approach was fundamentally alien to the spirit and objects of the FOI Act. The Information Commissioner informed the Council that it was considered totally inappropriate for an agency to waste the resources of the Office, and cause delays to an applicant in obtaining access to matter (to which the applicant has a legal right of access, if the Council cannot prove it is exempt matter), merely by maintaining an objection to disclosure without putting forward a rational basis to support a finding that the matter in issue is exempt.