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Environment Victoria Inc. v. Department of Primary Industries (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, January 15, 2013)

Jurisdiction: Australia

Side A: Environment Victoria Inc (Corporation)

Side B: Department of Primary Industries (Government)

Core objectives: Application for access to information relating to coal licenses and a feed-in tariff scheme

The applicant, an NGO, submitted a request to the respondent under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOIA) for documents relating to: the possible allocation of new licenses to mine brown coal in the Latrobe Valley; reductions to the premium solar feed-in tariff paid to consumers who contribute electricity to the power grid from solar panels; and changes to the planning controls over wind farms. The Department failed to respond to the request within 45 days (as required by the Act). After proceedings were commenced, some documents were produced and issues in dispute were eventually narrowed to four particular documents. Three of these documents related to allocation of licenses to mine coal, and the fourth related to the premium feed-in tariff scheme. In withholding these documents, the Department relied on an exception to FOIA which protects cabinet documents (for the three coal related documents), and an exception which protects internal working documents (in relation to all four documents). The Tribunal held that, with the exception of an introductory portion of one document, that the three coal license related documents were protected by the exception for internal working documents, as they had been prepared in order to brief the Minister on issues "of the utmost importance to Victorians." The high level nature of the briefing documents, and the sensitivity of the issues involved, were considerations that weighed against their release under FOIA. The document relating to the premium feed-in tariff scheme was held not to be protected by any of the exceptions.
Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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