What is the public interest

A guide for Applicants

This Information Sheet explains why the public interest is considered when an agency decides whether to give access to documents applied for under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act)1.

What does the public interest have to do with my application?

The main purpose of the RTI Act is to give a right of access to Queensland government information unless, on balance, giving access would be contrary to the public interest.

The RTI Act contains exempt information provisions and public interest factors which the agency will apply.  Exempt information provisions relate to information which Parliament has decided will always be contrary to the public interest to disclose, such as information that could compromise a law enforcement investigation.

If no exempt information provision applies then the agency will look at the lists of public interest factors to decide whether releasing the information would be contrary to the public interest.  The agency will weigh up all the relevant factors for and against disclosure and decide if, on balance, releasing the information would be contrary to the public interest.  

Do my interests or concerns count as the public interest?

Even if information is of interest to you or impacts you in some way it does not automatically mean that it is in the public interest to release it to you.  Generally, the public interest will affect all members (or a significant part) of the public, not just private or personal interests.  It will usually relate to the effective functioning of government and the well-being of citizens and the community generally.

How does the agency decide the public interest?

When looking at an application the agency considers all relevant factors for and against disclosure.  After identifying the relevant public interest factors the agency decides how important each factor is and how much ‘weight’ to give to it.  Balancing the public interest is not a simple maths equation: two factors for disclosure and only one factor against disclosure does not necessarily mean the information will be disclosed.

Your decision notice from the agency will outline the reasons why access to the documents has been refused, including which factors the decision maker has taken into consideration.

  • 1 Or chapter 3 of the Information Privacy Act 2009.

Current as at: December 31, 2014