Right to Information No.: RTI202223-161
Right to Information No.: RTI202223-161
Date of Decision: 10 January 2023
An application made pursuant to the Right to Information Act 2009 (‘the Act’), received the Department of Health (“the public authority”) on 7 December 2022 and accepted on 8 December 2022.
The applicant, pursuant to s15(4)(a) of the Act, agreed to grant an extension on the application for assessed disclosure.
The information requested:
An age stratified statistical breakdown of all presentations to, and admissions to, hospitals operated by the Department of Health / Tasmania Health Service for cardiac or cardiac related symptoms or conditions, for each month during the period 1 January 2018 to 30 November 2022.
Decision and Statement of Reasons
Section 12 Publicly Available Information
My decision is to refuse the request for information. Section 12 provides:
12. Information to be provided apart from Act
(3) Assessed disclosure is the method of disclosure of last resort and –
(3) the principal officer of a public authority or a Minister may refuse an application made in accordance with section 13 if the information that is the subject of the application –
(i) is otherwise available; or
The information requested is available to the applicant at:
A decision to refuse information under s12 is not a reviewable decision. The reason for this stems from the jurisdiction to conduct the review. Jurisdiction in relation to external review is established under s45(1)(a) when the decision maker was the authority's principal officer. Section 45 provides that an external review can be undertaken if an internal review (s43) would have been possible had the original decision maker been a delegated officer instead of the principal officer.
S43 provides that, an internal review only arises where the authority has made in accordance with s22. S22 refers to four classes of decision:
- where it has been determined that the applicant was not entitled to information because it was exempt information by virtue of one or more of the exemption provisions:
- where provision of the information was deferred under s17;
- where the application has been refused pursuant to s19; or
- where the application has been refused on the basis that it was a repeat or vexatious application (s20).
Section 10 Electronic Information
My decision is to refuse to provide the information sought, as outlined below.
This information cannot be produced in its entirety from the Department’s electronic computer systems as it is in a format that is not searchable. Retrieval and collation of this information would require a substantial and unreasonable diversion of resources. The information held by the Department concerning the request for information is held against the individual file of the tenant. Attempts to retrieve the historical information has proven to be challenging and hence pursuant to s10 of the Act (electronic information) the request is refused.
(1) If information is stored in an electronic form, a Minister or public authority may refuse an application under section 13 if –
(a) the information cannot be produced using the normal computer hardware and software and technical expertise of the public authority; and
(b) producing it would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the public authority from its usual operations, having regard to the factors in Schedule 3.
Having regard to the factors under Schedule 3 of the Act:
Clause 1(a): the terms of the request, especially whether it is of a global kind or a generally expressed request, and in that regard whether the terms of the request offer a sufficiently precise description to permit the public authority or Minister, as a practical matter, to locate the document sought within a reasonable time and with the exercise of reasonable effort.
The request being of a global kind the ability to locate the information cannot be undertaken in a reasonable time without dedication of resources.
Clause (b): whether the demonstrable importance of the document or documents to the applicant might be a factor in determining what in the particular case are a reasonable time and a reasonable effort.
Even though the applicant is a private citizen and freelance journalist, and the information is in connection with cardiac arrest and cardiac symptoms, the consideration under Schedule 3 may diminish somewhat due to this fact but I am not convinced that the weight of importance of the application to the applicant outweighs the utilisation of resources in further assessing the application.
Clause 1(c): more generally whether the request is a reasonably manageable one, giving due, but not conclusive, regard to the size of the public authority or Minister and the extent of its resources available for dealing with applications.
In this context, the resources to be considered are the existing resources required to process the request consistent with attendance to other priorities.1 It does not refer to the whole of the resources or possible resources it may temporarily be able to obtain to assist in processing the request.2 Therefore, the resources to be considered are those which would have to be used in:
- manually identifying the information in the Department’s electronic computer systems;
- identifying, locating and collating the information from the computer system;
- deciding whether to grant, refuse or defer access to the information or edited information, including resources to be used in examining the information;
- extracting the information; and
- notifying the applicant of any interim or final decision on the request.
The advice of the information custodian in relation to the application is that it may take the dedication of one officer more than five workdays in collecting the information. Such resources cannot be made available for this request without significantly affecting the other work of both the information custodian and the delegated officer under the Act. I further consider that the diversion of resources would be substantial taking account of the number of other Right to Information requests on hand.
Clause 1(d): the public authority’s or Minister’s estimate as to the number of sources of information affected by the request, and by extension the volume of information and the amount of officer-time, and the salary cost.
The advice from the information custodian is that the request will involve an officer being dedicated to manually review the database. A test undertaken demonstrated that the task might take more than seven working days. Both the amount of officer-time and salary cost in collating and then assessing the information would therefore be considerable and, in my view, an unreasonable diversion of resources.
Clause 1(e): the timelines binding the public authority or Minister.
The applicant has demonstrated generosity in granting an extension of time of 15 days for the assessment of requests that cover similar subject matter. Even if the applicant granted additional time for assessing this request, the time dedicated to this application would consequently influence the timelines for other requests.
Clause 1(f): the degree of certainty that can be attached to the estimate that is made as to sources of information affected and hours to be consumed, and in that regard importantly whether there is a real possibility that processing time might exceed to some degree the estimate first made.
The information custodian undertook a test exercise in searching for the information the estimate quoted is likely to be greater.
Clause 1(g): the extent to which the applicant has made other applications to the public authority or Minister in respect of the same or similar information or has made other applications across government in respect of the same or similar information, and the extent to which the present application might have been adequately met by those previous applications.
The applicant has not submitted any other Right to Information applications.
Clause 1(h): the outcome of negotiations with the applicant in attempting to refine the application or extend the timeframe for processing the application.
Negotiations were not entered, nevertheless, this does not modify my view that assessing this application would substantially and unreasonable be a diversion of resources.
Clause (i): the extent of the resources available to deal with the specified application.
The information custodian has limited resources available to set aside for an officer to dedicate time in sourcing the information while the delegated officer has existing applications still to be assessed.
I further find that the diversion of resources to provide the information would be unreasonable. While the matters listed in Schedule 3 of the Act must be considered when assessing if the processing of an application would result in a substantial and unreasonable diversion of resources, it is not a complete statement of the matters, which may be relevant. In making this decision, I have therefore considered all the facts and circumstances including:
- the number, type and volume of information falling within the scope of the request;
- the complexity of the request; and
- the work time involved in fully processing the request, considering that it may not be practicable for those involved in processing the request to concentrate solely on the request, given other work commitments.
1 Re SRB and SRC and Department of Health, Housing, Local Government and Community Services (1994) 33 ALD 171 at 179; the Full Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal on the meaning of “resources”, the subject of section 24 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (the equivalent to section 19 of the RTI Act (Tas)).
2(1994) 33 ALD 171 at 179.