Williams and Department of Natural Resources and Mines

Application number:
2004 F0579
Decision date:
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Williams and Department of Natural Resources and Mines
(2004 F0579, 10 May 2005) 

The applicant sought access to letter which had been written to the Department by a third party, who had also forwarded copies to of the letter to two Members of Parliament and two community groups.  The Department and the third party contended that the letter was exempt from disclosure, as it had been provided to the Department in confidence.  The third party also maintained that the purpose of the letter was to express her concerns about a certain matter involving the applicant, not to request the Department to take any action which might be adverse to the applicant. 

Assistant Commissioner Barker found that there had been no express request for, or guarantee of, confidentiality when the third party provided the letter to the Department, and that the provision of copies of the letter to other persons and groups (one of which was involved in the matter which was of concern to the third party) told against its being a confidential document.  AC Barker also found that the third party had intended to persuade the Department to take some action in relation to her concerns, by making the letter available to other interested parties, and therefore could not reasonably have expected that the letter would remain confidential.  Accordingly, AC Barker found that the letter did not qualify for exemption under s.46(1)(a) or s.46(1)(b) of the FOI Act, although a small amount of matter (the third party‚Äôs contact details and the location of her home) qualified for exemption under s.44(1) of the FOI Act.