Thatcher and Department of Local Government and Planning

Application number:
1998 S0097
Decision date:
Monday, Aug 16, 1999

Thatcher and Department of Local Government and Planning
(1998 S0097, 16 August 1999) 

Morgan and Department of Local Government and Planning
(1998 S0103, 16 August 1999) 

Both matters involved letters of complaint to the respondent, and to personnel of the Queensland Building Tribunal, concerning extensions made to the neighbouring residential property of the access applicant.  The access applicant sought external review of the respondent's decision to refuse her access to parts of those letters and attachments, and the complainant lodged a 'reverse FOI' application objecting to the disclosure by the respondent to the access applicant of any part of the letters and attachments, on the basis that those documents were communicated in confidence. 

The Information Commissioner found that the letters and attachments were not exempt from disclosure under s.46(1)(a) or s.46(1)(b) of the FOI Act.  The Information Commissioner considered that if action were to be taken by the respondent in connection with the complaints, the complainant ought reasonably to have expected that the access applicant would have to be consulted about the complaints. 

The Information Commissioner found that some of the information contained in the letters and attachments concerned the personal affairs of the complainant or his family and was prima facie exempt under s.44(1) of the FOI Act.  However, insofar as that information concerned the access applicant's property, and its disclosure would allow her to more fully understand the deficiencies which the complainant claimed were present in the conduct of the referee who approved the extensions to the property, and allow her to respond in an informed manner to any suggestion that the decision to approve the extensions should be varied in some way, the Information Commissioner was satisfied that, on balance, the public interest favoured disclosure to her of that information. 

There was, however, a small amount of matter, the disclosure of which the Information Commissioner was satisfied would not significantly advance the public interest in assisting the access applicant's understanding of the complaints.  The Information Commissioner therefore found that that matter was exempt under s.44(1) of the FOI Act.