McCaffrey and James Cook University
(2001 S0184, 30 May 2002)
In this case, the matter in issue comprised details of further study options being considered by a lecturer at the University's School of Law, and some comments by a senior academic concerning the lecturer's professional development and participation in the administration of the University.
The applicant argued that the matter in issue should be disclosed to further the public interest in the accountability of the University for its failure to properly manage the lecturer's activities, which the applicant contended were damaging to the University and the general community. (The lecturer has been an active opponent of the Port Hinchinbrook development, and has given considerable time to various environmental bodies and causes.)
Assistant Commissioner Shoyer found that information about proposed studies concerned the lecturer's personal affairs, and that disclosure of the comments about the lecturer by a senior member of the academic staff of the University could reasonably be expected to prejudice the University's ability to obtain frank and useful assessments of staff performance in the future.
Both categories of matter were therefore prima facie exempt from disclosure. He also found that disclosure would not materially advance the public interest in the University's accountability, given the amount of material already made available to the applicant, and that the matter in issue qualified for exemption from disclosure under s.44(1) and s.40(c) of the FOI Act.