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Opinions on Ministerial Notifications

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Ministerial decision not to provide the business cases presented to airlines during the Minister’s second trip to India

Opinion

The decision by the Minister for Tourism, the Hon Paul Papalia CSC MLA, not to provide Parliament the airline business cases presented during the Minister’s second trip to India was reasonable and therefore appropriate.

Background

On 2 April 2019, the Hon Dr Mike Nahan MLA asked the Minister for Tourism for the business cases presented to airlines during the Minister’s second trip to India, in Question on Notice 4972.

On 7 May 2019, the Minister declined to give this information, replying:

“Business cases presented to airlines contain commercially sensitive information which would disadvantage the State against its competitors if made publicly available, and risk damaging discussions with airlines themselves whose preference is to maintain a level of confidentiality.”

On 13 May 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 business cases was reasonable and therefore appropriate.

The Minister properly sought advice from the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation (Department) before responding to the request. The Department recommended the Minister decline to table the business cases as they have a commercial value and their disclosure could adversely impact on future negotiations with other airlines whilst developing new routes. 

The Department’s recommendation was based on an assessment against its Release of Event Sponsorship Information and/or other Commercial Information Policy Guidelines. As we have previously determined[1], this document provides suitable criteria for assessing if information is commercially sensitive.

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

  • most of the information in the business cases was not generally known nor easily ascertainable at the time the Minister declined to provide it. The portions that were publicly available were not significant, and included photographs of well-known tourist attractions and widely known event information
  • the detailed analysis included in the business cases has significant commercial value to Tourism WA. As we have previously acknowledged[2], all jurisdictions actively compete for visitors and travel partners to deliver campaigns. The business cases were developed for the purpose of attracting direct flights from India to Perth. If disclosed, other jurisdictions could use the business cases to develop a compelling argument to attract airline partners.

In our view, the Minister’s decision not to provide the business cases 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.

[2] Ibid.

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