Saunders and Department of Housing
(210150, 18 July 2007)
The applicant sought access to documents contained on his tenancy file held by the Department of Housing (the Department). The applicant was granted access to the majority of folios on his tenancy file, including documents disclosing the substance of complaints made against him in relation to a particular property.
Section 42(1)(b) – identity of a confidential source of information
The Department refused access to parts of documents which could reasonably be expected to identify the complainants pursuant to section 42(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act 1992 (Qld) (FOI Act). On external review, the applicant contended that the identifying matter should be disclosed because he already knew the complainants’ identities, the complaints were malicious and dishonest and the Department had been prepared to present witnesses in a Small Claims Tribunal hearing about the complaints.
Assistant Commissioner (AC) Henry found that section 42(1)(b) of the FOI Act did not operate to confirm or deny an applicant’s suspicions as to an information source, the alleged malice and falsity of the complaints were not relevant considerations and there was no evidence in this review to conclude that the intended witnesses would have been the complainants. On this basis, AC Henry found that the identifying matter qualified for exemption under section 42(1)(b) of the FOI Act.
Section 44(1) – matter affecting personal affairs
The Department also refused access to parts of documents which concerned the personal affairs of other individuals pursuant to section 44(1) of FOI Act. The personal affairs matter in issue on external review comprised personal details of the complainants and information relating to the physical state of health and emotional concerns of the complainants. The Department decided that the public interest in protecting the other individuals’ privacy outweighed any public interest considerations favouring disclosure.
On external review, the applicant contended that the public interest favoured disclosure of the personal affairs matter because it would assist him in pursuing further legal remedies and would establish that the Department acted unfairly in its handling of the complaint. AC Henry found that these considerations did not outweigh the public interest consideration in protecting the other individuals’ privacy and therefore, the personal affairs matter qualified for exemption under section 44(1) of the FOI Act.