3. Exemptions To Access

Council may refuse a request for information if there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.

Part 2, Division 2, Section 14 of the GIPA Act provides a table of allowable public interest considerations against disclosure. These are the only considerations against disclosure that Council will consider in applying the public interest test.

Considerations in the table are grouped under the following headings:

  1. responsible and effective government
  2. law enforcement and security
  3. individual rights, judicial processes and natural justice
  4. business interests of agencies and other persons
  5. environment, culture, economy and general matters
  6. secrecy provisions (in legislation other than those listed in Schedule 1 of GIPPA)
  7. exempt documents under interstate Freedom of Information legislation.

In considering whether there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of Council information, determinations will be made in accordance with the principals set out in Part 2, Division 2, Section 15 of the GIPA Act, which are:

  1. Council must exercise its functions so as to promote the objectives of the GIPPA
  2. Council must have regard to any relevant guidelines issued by the Information Commissioner
  3. The fact that disclosure of information might cause embarrassment to, or a loss of confidence in, the Government is irrelevant and must not be taken into account.
  4. The fact that disclosure of information might be misinterpreted or misunderstood by any person is irrelevant and must not be taken into account.
  5. In the case of disclosure in response to an access application, it is relevant to consider that disclosure cannot be made subject to any conditions on the use or disclosure of information.

Schedule 1 of the GIPA Act lists 12 categories of information (eight of which appear to affect local government) for which there is a conclusive presumption of an overriding public interest against disclosure. These eight are:

  1. Information subject to an overriding secrecy law (26 specifically named Acts)
  2. Information that would constitute contempt of court, or contravene any order or direction of a body with the power to receive evidence on oath
  3. Information subject to legal professional privilege
  4. ‘Excluded information’ (judicial and prosecutorial information, information about complaints handling and investigative functions, competitive and market sensitive information and information in relation to specific functions of the Public Trustee
  5. Documents affecting law enforcement and public safety
  6. Specific information relating to transport safety
  7. Specific reports concerning the care and protection of children
  8. Specific information relating to Aboriginal and environmental heritage.

In determining whether there is an overriding public interest against the disclosure of the information, Council will fully consider the Public Interest Test.

Generally under GIPA Act, Council must not publish and must refuse requests to disclose information in the above categories. Formal Access to Information Requests for ‘excluded information’ are invalid under GIPA Act.

Council will always explain to the applicant its reasons for applying an exemption. Council will not classify information as exempt unless there are clear reasons for doing so.  Where documents contain exempt information, any remaining information contained within the requested document will be available under the GIPA Act.

In dealing with informal applications Council will apply the same decision making framework.