Information Access Case Note -Distinguishing between 'information' and 'document' and the assessment of the dominant purpose in relation to Cabinet information [D'Adam v New South Wales Treasury and the Premier of New South Wales [2015] NSWCATAP 61]

View the full decision here D’Adam v New South Wales Treasury and the Premier of New South Wales [2015] NSWCATAP 61

Background

Mr Anthony D’Adam is a senior industrial officer working with the Public Service Association of New South Wales. On 13 July 2013 Mr D’Adam made an appeal of a decision of the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Mr D’Adam had applied for access to ‘Roadmaps’. ‘Roadmaps” are created by NSW government agencies. They contain information identifying financial savings to be achieved by agencies. The ‘Roadmaps’ also detail the actions agencies undertake to achieve these savings.

The Appeal Panel determined that the ‘Roadmaps’ should not be released and dismissed Mr D’Adam’s appeal.

Issues considered

The Appeal Panel was required to consider if the conclusive presumption against disclosure of documents prepared for the dominant purpose of submission to Cabinet applied to ‘information’ or ‘documents’. The Appeal Panel considered the evidence and was satisfied that the ‘Roadmaps’ were documents prepared for the dominant purpose of submission to Cabinet.

The Appeal Panel then considered the different approach to the right to access information under the GIPA Act and recognised that the Act applies to a broad range of information such as electronic or digital data and not just documents.

Appeal outcome

The Appeal Panel determined that the Tribunal had properly considered the issue of what was meant by the conclusive presumption applying to documents prepared for the dominant purpose of being submitted to Cabinet. The Appeal Panel noted if the Tribunal had concluded that a summary of the ‘Roadmaps’ rather than the actual ‘Roadmaps’ was also captured by the conclusive presumption against disclosure this would have been in error. The Appeal Panel noted it is clear that the information protected is the information contained in ‘a document prepared for the dominant purpose of its being submitted to Cabinet for Cabinet’s consideration’. This means that the document containing the information must have been submitted or prepared for submission to Cabinet.

The Information Commissioner notes that the focus of the GIPA Act is broad in capturing government information for the purpose of release but narrows when deciding to refuse access to documents or records.

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Distinguishing between ‘information’ and ‘document’ and the assessment of the dominant purpose in relation to Cabinet information [D’Adam v New South Wales Treasury and the Premier of New South Wales [2015] NSWCATAP 61]

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