THE Department of Education has upheld its decision to refuse access to documents about the Newcastle Education Precinct, despite the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) recommending the department review the decision.
The Newcastle Herald applied to the department under the Government Information (Public Access) (GIPA) Act in February for documents about the precinct, which was announced in June 2018 and involves upgrading Newcastle High and building a new primary school.
The department said some documents contained Cabinet information and all could "reveal a deliberation or consultation conducted, or an opinion, advice or recommendation given, in such a way as to prejudice a deliberative process of government or an agency", as well as "prejudice the effective exercise of the department's functions".
It said the documents were prepared to develop the business case, which was being deliberated.
The IPC said it was unclear why disclosure would discourage officers from "freely, discretely and honestly discussing the management of issues".
The IPC said not all the information - including four engineering reports - was deliberative in nature.
The IPC also said it was unclear why disclosure would prejudice the department's ability to exercise its functions managing departmental assets and developing new schools.
The department had said releasing information not yet agreed upon may "cause anxiety in the community".
The IPC said while disclosure might cause embarrassment to, or a loss of confidence in, the government, and might be misunderstood, this is "irrelevant and must not be taken into account".
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the IPC made it "clear that this information is in the public interest, and yet the government, like a stubborn child, is still digging its heels in".
"It's really disappointing that the IPC's recommendation is non-binding, but it really makes you wonder what it is this government is so desperate to hide."
A department spokesperson said the business case is expected to be submitted in late 2020 and the government was "committed" to the precinct.
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