Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
B applied to the council for access to any documents identifying the person who complained to the council (the third party) concerning the length of grass on some public land. B was given access to a document about the complaint, but it had the name and telephone number of the complainant deleted. He appealed to the Commissioner.
Section 44 exempts from disclosure matter which would disclose information concerning the 'personal affairs' of a person other than the applicant. In Re Stewart the Commissioner had noted that a person's name, address and telephone number were 'matters which fall within the grey area, rather than within the core meaning of the phrase "personal affairs of a person"'. He also there agreed with the decision of the NSW Court of Appeal in Commissioner of Police v the District Court of NSW and Perrin (1993) 31 NSWLR 606 (See 1 PLPR 72) where Mahoney J said that a person's name would not 'ordinarily be, as such, part of his personal affairs'.
Here, the Commissioner held that the third party 'was acting in the capacity of a private citizen exercising a citizen's privilege to make a private approach to an elected representative'. The information therefore concerned the personal affairs of a third party, within s 44(1). He found that there was no public interest to be served in disclosing the identity of the complainant, so the identifying details were therefore exempt from disclosure.