Gold Coast Bulletin: Tasmania: Friday, March 31, 2017.
A RIGHT to information request for the minutes of the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel’s meetings about Tassal’s Okehampton Bay project has been almost entirely redacted.
But the decision appears to be based on a selective reading of the Right to Information Act, University of Tasmania expert Rick Snell says.
The panel performed an independent review into Tassal’s proposal to install 28 salmon pens in Okehampton Bay on the state’s East Coast, and its report to Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff supporting the plan was publicly released in February.
Minutes of three meetings since August last year were partially released in the RTI request, but only details of procedural business were not redacted. Three pages of information were not released at all.
The officer removed wording from a section of the Act in their decision letter which accompanied the request.
The wording clarified that the exemption from release of opinions, advice or recommendations prepared for a minister applied to information prepared by “an officer of a public authority or a minister.”
Associate Professor Snell said when read in full the section did not appear to apply to the minutes requested, because a number of members of the panel were not officers of public authorities or ministers.
“I would be suspicious when a decision maker selectively gives you back wording of the Act and critical words are removed,” he said.
It was possible the minutes could be exempted under a different section of the Act, but would likely be subject to a public interest test, he said.
The request was made by Greens marine environment spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff, who has appealed the decision to Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment secretary John Whittington.
Ms Woodruff said the Government’s refusal to release the information was “endemic and unhealthy,” and the community had a right to know what the panel had recommended.
A DPIPWE spokeswoman said information about opinions, advice or recommendations being prepared for a minister in connection with their parliamentary duty could be exempt from release.