3.2.7 Access to confidential information

  1.  One of the foundations of local government is openness and transparency. All information held by council is public by default [1]. Confidential information is information that is able to be legally withheld from request by the public. It is information which could cause harm to the council or other parties if made public and elected members have an obligation to keep confidential any confidential information to which they have access.
  2. In the course of their duty, elected members are entitled to have access to all necessary information to allow them to properly discharge their duties and carry out their role. This can include confidential information [2]. This is referred to as the “need to know” principle. This information is generally provided through council reports, staff answering questions and providing advice at meetings, and informally in workshop briefings.
  3. Elected members are obliged (under the Code of Conduct) to ensure any confidential information provided to them is kept confidential. Failure to observe this requirement may expose the council to litigation. It may also inhibit information flow and undermine confidence in the council. For example, releasing information about an individual could result in a Privacy Act breach, while releasing commercially sensitive information around commercial negotiations could result in the council being disadvantaged in those negotiations.
  4. The attachment to the Code on access to confidential information provides a protocol for a member to challenge a decision that the member does not have a need to know the confidential information the member has requested.



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