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Stanford v Information Commissioner & Anor[2019] QCATA 27

Stanford v Information Commissioner & Anor[2019] QCATA 27

QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL

CITATION:

Stanford v Information Commissioner & Anor [2019] QCATA 27

PARTIES:

BRENDAN STANFORD

(appellant)

 

v

 

INFORMATION COMMISSIONER

(first respondent)

and

THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND
(second respondent)

APPLICATION NO/S:

APL246-17

MATTER TYPE:

Appeals

DELIVERED ON:

12 March 2019

HEARING DATE:

On the papers

HEARD AT:

Brisbane 

DECISION OF:

Judge Allen QC

ORDERS:

  1. The appeal is dismissed.
  2. The decision of the Information Commissioner is affirmed.

CATCHWORDS:

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – FREEDOM OF INFORMATION – RIGHT OF ACCESS – GROUNDS FOR REFUSAL – where the appellant appeals against a decision of the Information Commissioner affirming the decision of the second respondent to refuse to deal with an application for access to documents containing his personal information – where the application relates to documents that were the subject of a  previous application which was refused – whether the appellant has demonstrated any reasonable basis for again seeking access to the documents

APPEAL – GROUNDS OF APPEAL – whether the appellant raised any grounds of appeal

Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld), s 62, s 132

3PF1YC v The University of Queensland [2017] QICmr 21

REPRESENTATION:

 

Appellant:

Self-represented

First Respondent:

Self-represented

Second Respondent

Self-represented

This matter was heard and determined on the papers pursuant to s 32 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld).

REASONS FOR DECISION

  1. [1]
    By application dated 13 October 2016 (no. 2016/31), the appellant applied to the University of Queensland pursuant to the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (‘IP Act’) for access to documents containing his personal information.
  2. [2]
    By letter dated 11 November 2016, the appellant was advised of the decision of the University of Queensland to refuse to deal with his application pursuant to s 62(3)(d) of the IP Act on the grounds that the application sought access to the same documents as an earlier information privacy application which was the subject of a completed review by the Information Commissioner.
  3. [3]
    The appellant applied to the Office of the Information Commissioner for external review of the decision of the University of Queensland.  On 21 June 2017, the Information Commissioner affirmed the decision of the University of Queensland: 3PF1YC v The University of Queensland [2017] QICmr 21. 
  4. [4]
    The appellant appeals pursuant to s 132(1) of the IP Act against the decision of the Information Commissioner on the external review.  Pursuant to s 132(2) of the IP Act the appeal may only be on a question of law, and pursuant to s 132(5) may only be by way of a rehearing.

The decision of the University of Queensland

  1. [5]
    In his application dated 31 October 2016 the appellant sought access to the following documents:

“Mental health information and documents used in determination thereof in accompanying extract of email dated 29 August 2005.  Staff and faculty were also briefed that I suffer from schizophrenia.  I do not know anything about any such illness.”

  1. [6]
    The time period or date range specified was:

“8 May 1973 to present but mainly 2000 – 2010”.

  1. [7]
    The application appended a copy of an email from Warren Collyer to Warren Kerswill dated 29 August 2005, including comments regarding the appellant at two dot points.
  2. [8]
    In the letter dated 11 November 2016, the delegate of the University of Queensland stated:

PREVIOUS APPLICATION FOR SAME DOCUMENTS

A review of University files indicate that on 7 December 2009, you made an application under the IP Act for access to, among other things, “all documents relating to the extract of an email from Warren Collyer to Warren Kerswill dated 29 August 2005.”  A decision on this application (2009/44) was made on 12 January 2010, which was appealed to the Queensland Information Commissioner.  By letter dated 21 June 2010, the Information Commissioner advised the University that the external review was finalised.

I draw your attention to s 62 of the IP Act, which provides:

62 Previous application for same documents - access application

(1) This section applies if—

(a) an applicant makes an access application, whether under this Act or the Right to Information Act, to an agency or Minister (the first application); and

(b) the applicant makes another access application under this Act (the later application) to the same agency or Minister for access to 1 or more of the same documents sought under the first application and the later application does not, on its face, disclose any reasonable basis for again seeking access to the document or documents.

(3)  The agency or Minister may refuse to deal with the later application to the extent it is for access to a document or documents sought under the first application if—

(a) when the later application was made, the agency or Minister had not decided the first application; or

(b) in relation to the first application if made under this Act—

(i) the applicant had been given notice under section 68 that access was to be given to the document sought or to some or all of the documents sought; or

(ii) the agency or Minister had decided that the application was for a document to which this chapter does not apply; or

(iii) the agency or Minister had decided the document or documents sought were documents access to which was refused under section 67; or

(iv) the agency or Minister had refused to deal with it under this part; or

(d)  the agency’s or Minister’s decision on the first application—

(i)  is the subject of a review and the review is not complete; or

(ii) has been the subject of a completed review (other than an internal review).

I note your current application seeks access to the same documents as application 2009/44; they both seek access to documents related to an email dated 29 August 2005.  Because the application 2009/44 was subject to a finalised review by the Information Commissioner, I consider the University is entitled to refuse to deal with this application pursuant to s 62(3)(d).

DECISION

I have determined on this date to refuse to deal with your application pursuant to s 62(3)(d) on the grounds that the application seeks access to the same documents as an earlier IP application (2009/44) and that earlier application was the subject of a completed review by the information commissioner.”

External review by the Information Commissioner

  1. [9]
    By letter to the appellant dated 24 April 2017, the delegate of the Information Commissioner expressed the preliminary view that the University of Queensland may refuse to deal with the appellant’s access application on the basis that the requested information was the subject of a previous application made under the IP Act, and that the current access application did not, on its face, disclose any reasonable basis for again seeking access.  The appellant was referred to the terms of s 62 of the IP Act.  A comparison was made between the information sought by application no. 2009/44 dated 7 December 2009 and application no. 2016/31 dated 13 October 2016.  The delegate expressed satisfaction that both applications sought the documents used in determining the views expressed in the two bullet points contained in the email dated 29 August 2005, and the preliminary view that the appellant had therefore previously applied to the University of Queensland for access to the same documents.  The delegate stated:

“I have carefully examined your Current Application.  On its face, you have provided no basis for again seeking access to documents used in determining the views expressed in the two bullet points contained in the Email Extract.  I am not aware of any reason you may have for again seeking access to documents about the Email Extract.  Accordingly, I am satisfied that your application does not, on its face, disclose any reasonable basis for again seeking access to documents used in forming the views expressed in the email extract. 

Given these considerations, my preliminary view is that the University may refuse to deal with the access application.”

  1. [10]
    The appellant was invited to provide further submissions if he did not agree with the delegate’s preliminary view. 
  2. [11]
    Subsequent emails from the appellant to the office of the Information Commissioner were not responsive to the issues under consideration.

The decision of the Information Commissioner

  1. [12]
    In the decision of 21 June 2017,[1] the Information Commissioner noted the relevant provisions at s 62 of the IP Act.  The Information Commissioner analysed the terms of the request for documents in 2009 and 2016 and concluded that the later application sought access to the same documents as the first application. 
  2. [13]
    The Information Commissioner then went on to consider whether the later application, on its face, disclosed any reasonable basis for again seeking access to the same documents.  The Information Commissioner concluded that, on its face, the later application disclosed no reasonable basis for the appellant to again seek access to the requested documents.  The Information Commissioner stated:

“[20] On external review, OIC invited the applicant to make submissions. 

  [21] I have carefully considered the applicant’s emails to OIC.  The applicant has been unable to provide any cogent submission in relation to this matter.  The concerns raised by the applicant in his emails are not relevant to the issue for determination in this review. 

  [22] I am satisfied that:

  • the applicant’s emails do not indicate any reasonable basis for the applicant again seeking access to the Requested Documents;
  • the access application, on its face, does not disclose a reasonable basis for again seeking access to the Requested Documents.”

(footnotes omitted)

  1. [14]
    The Information Commissioner then went on to consider whether the decision of the University of Queensland on the first application was the subject of a completed review and stated:

“[24] The University’s decision on the First Application stated that it refused access to the Requested Documents under s 62(3) of the IP Act on the basis that those documents have been the subject of two finalised applications.  The applicant applied for external review of that decision.  OIC accepted the external review application and the review was finalised by informal resolution. 

[25] I am therefore satisfied that the University’s decision on the first application was the subject of a completed review.”

(footnotes omitted)

  1. [15]
    The Information Commissioner concluded:

“[26] I am satisfied that the applicant has made a Later Application to the University for access to the same documents sought under the First Application and the Later Application does not, on its face, disclose any reasonable basis for again seeking access to the documents.  Accordingly, the requirements of s 62(1) and s 62(c)(d)(ii) of the IP Act are met.”

  1. [16]
    The Information Commissioner accordingly decided:

“[27] On the basis set out above I am satisfied that the Later Application seeks access to documents sought under the First Application.  Accordingly, I affirm the University’s decision to deal with the access application under s 62(3)(d)(ii) of the IP Act.”

This appeal

  1. [17]
    Neither in the application to review a decision filed 18 July 2017, nor the written submission dated 16 November 2017, does the appellant articulate any comprehensible ground of appeal against the decision of the Information Commissioner.  The material filed by the appellant fails to identify any alleged error of law or fact by the Information Commissioner.
  2. [18]
    The Information Commissioner correctly identified the relevant provisions of the IP Act.  Findings of fact of the Information Commissioner were clearly open.  Nothing emerges from a consideration of all the material which raises any relevant question of law.  The decision of the Information Commissioner is plainly correct.
  3. [19]
    Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed and the decision of the Information Commissioner is affirmed.

Footnotes

[1] 3PF1YC v The University of Queensland [2017] QICmr 21.

Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Brendan Stanford v Information Commissioner & The University of Queensland

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Stanford v Information Commissioner & Anor

  • MNC:

    [2019] QCATA 27

  • Court:

    QCATA

  • Judge(s):

    Allen QC J

  • Date:

    12 Mar 2019

Appeal Status

Please note, appeal data is presently unavailable for this judgment. This judgment may have been the subject of an appeal.

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