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Bolstering Australia’s national privacy and FOI regulator

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

The Albanese Government will appoint a standalone Privacy Commissioner to deal with the growing threats to data security and the increasing volume and complexity of privacy issues.

Australians rightly expect their privacy regulator to have the resources and powers to meet the ongoing challenges of the digital age and protect their personal information.

The large-scale data breaches of 2022 were distressing for millions of Australians, with sensitive personal information being exposed to the risk of identity fraud and scams.

This action is in significant contrast to that of the former Liberal Government, which left Australia disgracefully unprepared for this challenge by failing to strengthen privacy laws, and scrapping the position of a standalone Privacy Commissioner.

The Albanese Government takes privacy regulation seriously and has already acted to significantly increase penalties for companies which fail to take adequate care of customer data and give the Australian Information Commissioner improved and new powers.

The Australian people rightly expect greater protections, transparency and control over their personal information and the appointment of the standalone Privacy Commissioner restores the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to the three-Commissioner model Parliament originally intended.

Currently, the Australian Information Commissioner, Ms Angelene Falk, holds a dual appointment as the Privacy Commissioner. I thank Ms Falk for her dedicated service in this role since 2018. Ms Falk will remain Information Commissioner and head of the OAIC.

A merit-based selection process to fill the role of Privacy Commissioner will commence today. Ms Falk will continue as the Privacy Commissioner until this process is finalised.

Freedom of Information Commissioner

In light of the recent resignation of Mr Leo Hardiman PSM KC as Freedom of Information Commissioner, I am also pleased to announce that we have appointed Ms Toni Pirani as acting Freedom of Information Commissioner, effective 20 May 2023. I thank Mr Hardiman for his significant contribution and wish him well in his future endeavours.

Appointing an acting FOI Commissioner will ensure that the OAIC can continue to undertake its FOI functions until a permanent appointment is made.

A merit-based selection process to select the ongoing FOI Commissioner vacancy will also commence today.