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Friday, December 18, 2015

Privacy Commissioner not Australian Information Commissioner in the money?

I'd like to think Paul Farrell in The Guardian and others on social media are right that additional funding for the Office of Australian Information Commissioner in the Mid Year budget update for "Enhanced Welfare Payment Integrity — non-employment income data matching" until 2019 may signal the end of the long drawn out unsuccessful government attempt to close the office. 

The funds are earmarked for the privacy functions of the office. 

The Budget in May included funding for privacy functions and (reduced) funding for FOI functions in 2015-16 but nothing in forward estimates for the three years to follow.  The government plan is to scatter some functions around including packing the Privacy Commissioner off to the Australian Human Rights Commission if/when the abolition bill passes the Senate. The FOI oversight and review functions would be scrapped.

However another budget document revealed $4.2 million was allocated in the Budget over four years for the Privacy Commissioner to provide oversight of privacy implications arising from the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 and the Counter‑Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014

The latest additional funding could pass as more of the same. That is money to accompany the Privacy Commissioner wherever he ends up.

Let's hope the funding decision indicates something else: That someone has joined the dots to see that standing firm (without majority support in the Senate to pass the bill) jars with the grander more recent government decision to embrace transparent, open government and to this end, proceed with membership of the Open Government Partnership. The decision requires endorsement of a declaration that includes a commitment 
to providing access to effective remedies when information or the corresponding records are improperly withheld, including through effective oversight of the recourse process.

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