Queensland Gridiron Football League Inc. and Department of Tourism, Sport and Racing; Reilly (Third Party)
(1994 S0086, 11 October 1994)
Queensland Gridiron Football League Inc. and Department of Tourism, Sport and Racing; Holiday (Third Party)
(1994 S0112, 11 October 1994)
This was a ‘reverse-FOI’ application by the Queensland Gridiron Football League Incorporated (the QGFL). The case illustrates the application of principles set out in Cannon and Australian Quality Egg Farms Limited (1994) 1 QAR 491, as to the correct interpretation and application of s.45(1)(b) and s.45(1)(c) of the FOI Act (including the public interest balancing test contained within s.45(1)(c)) in circumstances where the documents in issue comprised an audit report in respect of the applicant (an organisation which received government funding under the Queensland Sports Development Scheme) and associated documents.
The Information Commissioner was not satisfied that information in the documents in issue concerning the financial management practices in place at the QGFL, and the QGFL’s relationship with the Department, had any intrinsic commercial value to the QGFL (or any other person) for the purposes of s.45(1)(b) of the FOI Act.
With respect to s.45(1)(c), the QGFL claimed that disclosure could reasonably be expected to have an adverse effect on its ability to obtain funding from sponsorship agreements and marketing opportunities. The Information Commissioner was not prepared to accept that disclosure under the FOI Act could reasonably be expected to have an adverse effect on the QGFL’s business, commercial or financial affairs when the substance of the documents in issue had previously been discussed in the Queensland Parliament and had become a matter of public record. Nor was the Information Commissioner prepared to accept that disclosure of the matter in issue could reasonably be expected to prejudice the future supply to government of like information. It was a condition of obtaining government funding under the relevant scheme that sporting organisations allow access to their books of account and other relevant documents for audit purposes. Failure to provide information of the kind in issue would result in withdrawal of funding, and thus there was no reasonable basis for expecting that disclosure would prejudice the future supply to government of like information.
At paragraphs 36-41, the Information Commissioner referred to the public interest considerations which clearly favoured disclosure of the matter in issue, including the public interest in ensuring that taxpayer’s funds expended on subsidies for the administration and coaching expenses of organisations like the QGFL are properly accounted for.
This case also illustrates the application of principles set out in B and Brisbane North Regional Health Authority(1994) 1 QAR 279 as to the correct interpretation and application of s.46(1)(a) and s.46(1)(b). The Information Commissioner was satisfied that none of the information in issue was communicated in such circumstances as to fix the respondent agency with an equitable obligation of confidence. The respondent in effect acts as an agent of the public in ensuring that public funds advanced to a private sector organisation, to further purposes considered to be in the public interest, are expended in a proper manner and properly accounted for. In the Information Commissioner's opinion, such circumstances tell against the imposition of enforceable equitable obligations of confidence.