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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New twist in Office of Australian Information Commissioner saga

The announcement that Australian Information Commissioner Professor John McMillan has been appointed NSW Ombudsman for a two year term raises the question, where to from here for the office he leaves? 

No statement so far from Attorney General Brandis, for the last year intent on abolishing the office despite the lack of majority support in the Senate for his bill.

It's the perfect opportunity of course to rethink this flawed policy choice, pull the bill and proceed to evidence based decisions to improve the FOI framework.

But then again, having dug in so far the government may seek to use Professor McMillan's departure to move towards achieving its purpose in practical terms by not filling the position.

The Australian Information Commissioner Act establishes the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner consisting of the Information Commissioner, the Freedom of Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner, and confers on them statutory functions that remain in place until such time as Parliament repeals the act.  

Freedom of Information Commissioner Dr James Popple left the OAIC in December following his appointment to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. 

Unless the Information Commissioner and/or the Freedom of Information Commissioner positions are filled on an acting or permanent basis, Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim will be the sole remaining commissioner charged with the statutory functions and associated powers.

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