Council may refuse a request for information if there is an overriding public interest against disclosure or if searching for the requested information would require unreasonable and substantial diversion of the Council's resources.
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 Act.
In determining whether there is an overriding public interest against the disclosure of the information, Council will fully consider the Public Interest Test.
The GIPA Act provides an exhaustive list of public interest considerations against disclosure. These are the only considerations against disclosure that Council will consider in applying the public interest test.
Considerations are grouped under the following headings:
- responsible and effective government
- law enforcement and security
- individual rights, judicial processes and natural justice
- business interests of agencies and other persons
- environment, culture, economy and general matters
- secrecy provisions (in legislation other than those listed in Schedule 1)
- exempt documents under interstate Freedom of Information legislation.
In applying the public interest test, Council will not take into account:
- that disclosure might cause embarrassment to, or loss of confidence in, the Council;
- that any information disclosed might be misinterpreted or misunderstood by any person.
Council will consider any submissions made by an applicant in relation to public interest considerations, as well as any factors personal to the applicant.
Under GIPA there are 12 categories of information (8 of which appear to affect local government) for which there is a conclusive presumption of an overriding public interest against disclosure. These eight are:
- Information subject to an overriding secrecy law (26 specifically named Acts)
- Information subject to the direction or order of a court or other body with the power to receive evidence on oath
- Information subject to legal professional privilege
- '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
- Documents affecting law enforcement and public safety
- Specific information relating to transport safety
- Specific reports concerning the care and protection of children
- Specific information relating to Aboriginal and environmental heritage.
Generally under GIPA, Council must not publish and must refuse requests to disclose information in the above categories. Formal applications for 'excluded information' are invalid under the Act.
In dealing with informal applications Council will apply a similar decision-making framework.