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Opinions on Ministerial Notifications

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Ministerial decision not to provide the funding breakdown for the 2018 ‘Perth turns up the heat in summer’ tourism campaign

Opinion

The decision by the Minister for Tourism, the Hon Paul Papalia CSC MLA, not to provide Parliament with the funding breakdown for the 2018 ‘Perth turns up the heat in summer’ tourism campaign was reasonable and therefore appropriate.

Background

On 12 February 2019, the Hon Dr Mike Nahan MLA asked the Minister for Tourism for information about a 2018 summer tourism campaign in Question on Notice 4490.

Part (c) requested the following information:

(c) Will the Minister table a breakdown of the funding for this campaign?

On 12 March 2019, the Minister declined to give this information, replying:

(c) Information pertaining to the amount invested by Tourism Western Australia (Tourism WA) in individual campaigns has a commercial value and its disclosure could cause commercial harm to the State and the agency’s campaign partner. Disclosing the amount of Tourism WA’s investment could provide a competitive advantage to other States/Territories and potential campaign partners. Accordingly, I will notify the Auditor General’s office and both houses of Parliament that part (c) of this question will not be answered as per section 82 of the Financial Management Act 2006.

The full transcript of the Parliamentary question and the Minister’s response is in Appendix 1.

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 funding breakdown as it was commercially sensitive and releasing it could provide a competitive advantage to other states and potential campaign partners.

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[1], this document provides suitable criteria for assessing if information is commercially sensitive.

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

  • the funding breakdown was not publicly known nor easily ascertainable at the time the Minister was asked the Parliamentary question
  • the breakdown 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. These jurisdictions could use the funding breakdown to gain a competitive advantage
  • future campaigns could become more expensive for Tourism WA to deliver. The release of the information could provide key intelligence to other jurisdictions which they could use to offer more favourable terms to tourism partners. It could also limit Tourism WA’s ability to negotiate favourable terms with partners on future campaigns.

In our view, the Minister’s decision not to provide the funding breakdown 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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