CSX and Department of Child Safety
(210353, 21 December 2007)
Section 44(1) Matter affecting personal affairs – name of putative father – shared personal affairs
The applicant sought access to a part of his adoption record held by the Department of Child Safety which contained the name of his putative father.
Applying the principles identified in KBN and Department of Families, Youth and Community Care (1998) 4 QAR 422, Acting Information Commissioner Rangihaeata decided that the information concerned the shared personal affairs of the applicant and his putative father and was prima facie exempt under section 44(1) of the FOI Act, subject to the public interest balancing test.
In this instance, the public interest considerations in favour of disclosing the information to the applicant were not sufficient to outweigh the strong privacy interests of the putative father and his family. In deciding that the information was exempt under section 44(1) of the FOI Act, Acting Information Commissioner Rangihaeata noted that there was no evidence that the putative father in this case had acknowledged paternity and verifying whether he was in fact the applicant’s birth father was not appropriate given that consultation (either with the putative father or his family) would have the same effect as disclosing the relevant information.
During the review the applicant also requested that the Information Commissioner confirm whether either of the surnames suggested by him was that of his putative father. With reference to Hearl and Mulgrave Shire Council (1994) 1 QAR 557 and Pearce and Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority and Others (1999) 5 QAR 242, Acting Information Commissioner Rangihaeata indicated that although the FOI Act gives a person a legally enforceable right to documents of agencies (though this right is subject to the Act) it does not afford a person the right to obtain answers to questions asked of a government department.