Food business and Gold Coast City Council; Seven Network Operations (Third Party) (310352)
Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) – public interest factors – section 47(3)(b) and section 49 –schedule 4, part 2, items 1, 2 and 14 – part 3, items 2, 15 and 21
Seven Network Operations (Seven) applied to Gold Coast City Council (Council) for documents about failed health and safety audits in relation to a food business.
The food business was consulted as an interested third party and objected to disclosure of the documents. Council decided to grant access to the documents contrary to the food business’ objections.
The food business applied to Council for internal review of Council’s decision. Council affirmed its original decision.
The food business then applied to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) for external review of Council’s decision. The food business contended that the relevant documents did not fall within the scope of Seven’s access application, or alternatively, that the prejudice to its business and privacy outweighed any other factors favouring disclosure in the public interest, and that access to the information should therefore be refused on the basis that disclosure would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest.
The Right to Information Commissioner identified several public interest factors favouring disclosure of the information in issue. The Right to Information Commissioner considered that while the public interest in revealing health risks was relatively low due to the age of the information, the public interest in Council’s accountability, in promoting public discussion about the way in which Council performs its role under the Food Act 2006 (Qld) and the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld), and the public interest in safe, informed and competitive marketplaces should each be given significant weight.
Weighing against these public interest factors favouring disclosure was the prejudice to the food business’ commercial and business affairs that could result from disclosure of the information in issue. The Right to Information Commissioner attributed moderate weight to these nondisclosure factors, but did not consider that, on balance, they outweighed the factors favouring disclosure.
Accordingly, the Right to Information Commissioner found that disclosure of the information would not on balance, be contrary to the public interest and therefore affirmed Council’s decision that Seven wasentitled to access the information.