The decision by the Minister to provide the redacted report was reasonable and appropriate.
The Minister properly sought advice from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (Department) before responding to the request. The Department recommended the Minister provide the report to Parliament, with confidential information redacted. The Minister followed the Department’s advice.
The Department sought advice from the external party that authored the study prior to providing the Minister with a recommendation. The Department commissioned the study, which used information gained through the State Telecommunication Infrastructure Audit. State entities and commercial partners provided information to the audit with an expectation it would remain confidential. The Minister tabled the majority of the report, with the redacted information representing around 10% of the total document.
We used our criteria for assessing commercial-in-confidence information and considered the approach the Department took was reasonable because:
- the commercial-in-confidence information was specifically identified
- the information was not generally known or ascertainable. However, 2 images which represented a very small component of the report, were redacted despite being publically available
- disclosure of the information could have caused unreasonable detriment to the State.
In our view, the Minister’s decision to provide a redacted version of the report is consistent with the public interest of protecting and reducing the risk of damage to the State and third parties. Releasing the full study would have revealed commercially sensitive information from third parties to the wider telecommunications market and could negatively impact the State in future procurement negotiations on telecommunications infrastructure projects.