Pemberton and The University of Queensland

Application number:
Decision date:
Tuesday, Sep 23, 2008


Pemberton and The University of Queensland
(210529, 23 September 2008)


Section 77(1)(a) - decision not to deal with application for review - application lacking substance


The applicant initially applied to the University Of Queensland (University) for documents (FOI Application): 

·          concerning the death of a previous University employee, Dr Zhou 

·          relating to viruses held by areas of the University and any virus related incidents at the University.  

The University located more than 400 folios in response to the FOI Application, some of which were released to the applicant in full and others released in part pursuant to section 44(1) and section 27(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 1992 (Qld) (FOI Act).  The applicant sought internal review of the University’s decision on the basis that additional documents should have been located in relation to Dr Zhou’s death and about virus-related incidents at the University.  On internal review, the University conducted additional searches but did not locate any further documents in response to the FOI Application.  The applicant then applied to the Information Commissioner for external review on the ground of sufficiency of search (External Review Application).


In his submissions to this Office, the Applicant contended that:  

·          Dr Zhou’s death must have been investigated by the University because he died as a result of being infected with a virus or bacterium in his work place, and therefore,

·          further documents must exist in relation to Dr Zhou’s death that have not been disclosed to the applicant by the University. 

Following a preliminary assessment of the External Review Application and consideration of further submissions obtained from the applicant, Assistant Commissioner Corby decided that the External Review Application was lacking substance because:  

·          there were no reasonable grounds to believe that the additional documents sought by the applicant were in the possession or under the control of the University

·          any documents produced by the University in response to the FOI Application would post-date the FOI Application and were therefore, not within the scope of the FOI Application due to the operation of section 25(3) of the FOI Act.


Accordingly, Assistant Commissioner Corby decided not to deal with the External Review Application pursuant to section 77(1)(a) of the FOI Act.