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Opinions on Ministerial Notifications

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Ministerial decision not to provide the High Value Traveller Research report

Opinion

The decision by the Minister for Tourism not to provide Parliament with a research report by BDA titled High Value Traveller Research, October 2018 was reasonable and therefore appropriate.

Background

In Parliament on 19 March 2019, Ms Libby Mettam MLA asked the Minister for Tourism the following questions related to Tourism WA’s marketing campaign “Western Australia the Road Trip State”.

(a)       Will the Minister table the research conducted by BDA Marketing Planning titled People Prophets Tracker, Year ending April 2018? If not, why not;

(b)       Will the Minister table the research undertaken by BDA Marketing Planning titled “High Value Traveller Research, October 2018”? If not, why not;

(c)       On what date was the October 2018 research provided to the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation;

(d)       How much funding has been allocated to market “Western Australia the Road Trip State” to other States and Territories in Australia; and

(e)       Will the Minister provide a breakdown of the funding allocated to market “Western Australia the Road Trip State” to other States and Territories in Australia, including the amount of funding allocated for marketing to each State and Territory?

The Minister provided answers to all parts of the question. However, in responding to part (b) the Minister replied:

(b)       The release of information contained in BDA Marketing Planning’s “High Value Traveller Research, October 2018” report could undermine Tourism WA’s competitive advantage. Accordingly, I will notify the Auditor General’s office and both houses of Parliament that part (b) of this question will not be answered as per section 82 of the Financial Management Act 2006. However, Tourism WA has created summaries of the High Value Traveller target market that draw on the key learnings from the High Value Traveller research undertaken by BDA. [See tabled paper no 2303.]

The Minister’s full response is included in Appendix 1. Tabled paper number 2303 can be found on the Parliament website.

On 1 April 2019, the Auditor General received the Minister’s notification of the decision not to provide the requested information, in accordance with section 82 of the FM Act.

Key findings

The decision by the Minister not to provide the requested information was reasonable and therefore appropriate.

The Minister properly sought advice from the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation (the Department) before responding to the request. The Department recommended the Minister decline to provide the research as it contained commercially sensitive information and releasing it could undermine Tourism WA’s competitive advantage. 

The Department’s recommendation was based on an assessment against its Release of Event Sponsorship Information and/or other Commercial Information policy and guidelines. As we have previously determined, this document provides suitable criteria for assessing if information is commercially sensitive.

We determined that the Department’s advice was sound, as:

  • the research was not publicly known or easily ascertainable at the time the Minister was asked the Parliamentary question. In answering the question, the Minister did provide Parliament with high level summaries drawn from the research but did not provide other information such as BDA’s research methods and detailed analysis
  • the detailed analysis included in the research has significant commercial value to Tourism WA. As we have previously acknowledged[1], all jurisdictions actively compete for visitors and travel partners to deliver campaigns. These jurisdictions could use the detailed analysis to gain a competitive advantage. Future campaigns could become more expensive for Tourism WA to deliver
  • the research has a commercial value to BDA. While the contract terms do not preclude the release of the information on the request of Parliament, the Department consulted with BDA about the release of the research report and BDA requested that the report remain confidential. Releasing BDA’s research methods and analysis would likely cause damage to BDA and the Department’s commercial relationship with BDA. This may limit the Department’s ability to negotiate favourable terms and conditions with future market research providers.

In our view, the Minister’s decision not to provide the research report is consistent with the public interest of protecting and reducing the risk of damage to the financial and commercial affairs of the State.

[1] Western Australian Auditor General’s Report, Opinions on Ministerial Notifications. Report 8: December 2018-19, pages 6 & 8.

 
Page last updated: July 19, 2019

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