Daw and Queensland Rail
(220020, 24 November 2010)
Section 47(3)(b) Right to Information Act – refusal of access
Section 49 Right to Information Act – contrary to public interest
The applicant sought access to documents concerning a workplace investigation in which he was the complainant. Queensland Rail (QR) decided to refuse access to some information (including the investigation report and interview summaries) on the basis that disclosure would, on balance, be contrary to public interest. The applicant sought external review of QR’s decision.
The RTI Commissioner considered whether disclosure of the documents in issue would, on balance, be contrary to public interest and found the following public interest factors relevant:
Factors favouring disclosure in the public interest
· some of the information consisted of the applicant’s personal information
· disclosure could reasonably be expected to contribute to the administration of justice generally, including procedural fairness
· disclosure could reasonably be expected to advance the public interest in government agencies being accountable for properly assessing and, where necessary, investigating allegations against agency staff.
Factors favouring nondisclosure in the public interest
Disclosure of the relevant information could reasonably be expected to:
· cause a public interest harm in that it would disclose personal information of individuals other than the applicant
· prejudice the management function of QR.
Regarding the expectation of prejudice to the management function of QR, the Commissioner was satisfied that disclosure may have a detrimental effect on QR’s management function or place QR at a disadvantage in relation to its management function because disclosure could reasonably be expected to:
· result in staff being reluctant to co-operate in future investigations due to concerns that information provided could be disclosed outside of the investigation process
· cause staff to lose confidence in the finalisation of investigations, particularly where allegations are found to be unsubstantiated
· cause an adverse effect on workplace relationships, particularly because the applicant and relevant third parties continued to work at QR.
The Commissioner considered the above public interest factors and found that:
· the information already provided to the applicant was sufficiently accurate and comprehensive to address QR’s accountability in relation to the handling of the investigation and the public interest in procedural fairness to the applicant
· the applicant’s personal information was interwoven with personal information of third parties and the public interest harm arising out of the disclosure of the third parties’ personal information outweighed the applicant’s right to access his own personal information
· the prejudice to the management function of QR was particularly relevant because the investigation was conducted recently and the applicant continued to work with QR.
Accordingly, the Commissioner decided that, on balance, the factors favouring nondisclosure of the information outweighed those favouring disclosure and that disclosure of the information would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest under sections 47(3)(b) and 49 of the RTI Act.