Lai and Department of Transport and Main Roads
(310177, 13 April 2011)
Refusal of access
Section 47(3)(b) and 49 of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld)
The applicant applied to the Department of Transport and Main Roads (Department) for documents relating to a traffic incident which resulted in the death of his wife. The applicant's wife was struck by a motor vehicle, driven by a third party, while she was walking along a footpath. The Department subsequently required the third party driver to show cause as to their suitability to hold a driver's licence. As a result of medical evidence provided by the driver to the Department, the driver was permitted to maintain an open licence.
The Department granted the applicant access to some information but refused access to personal details of the driver, including information appearing in medical certificates provided by the driver to the Department in response to the show cause notice, on the basis that disclosure would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest under sections 47(3)(b) and 49 of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act).
On external review, the applicant submitted that the Department's decision to reinstate the driver's licence was based on contradicting medical information and that therefore, there was a strong accountability interest in disclosing the driver's personal information. The applicant also contended that disclosure of the driver's identity would assist him in lodging a complaint against the medical practitioner who issued the medical certificates with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
In balancing the relevant public interest factors, the RTI Commissioner was satisfied that:
· the public interest in the accountability of the Department and administration of justice did not carry any weight in the circumstances (as the Department had released documents detailing the show cause process and disclosing the personal details of the third party would not advance the accountability interest & disclosure could not reasonably be expected to assist the applicant in making a complaint to the AHPRA);
· disclosure of the driver’s personal information could reasonably be expected to cause a public interest harm;
· while the privacy interest in the driver’s name was somewhat reduced, the information still attracted a strong privacy interest due to the sensitive and private context in which the information appeared; and
· on balance, the public interest factors favouring disclosure were outweighed by the factors favouring nondisclosure.
The RTI Commissioner affirmed the Department’s decision to refuse access to the personal information of the driver under sections 47(3)(b) and 49 of the RTI Act on the basis that disclosure would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest.