OAIC limps on as Pilgrim gets three more months

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OAIC limps on as Pilgrim gets three more months

No details on privacy, FOI commissioner roles.

The Australian government has decided to retain Timothy Pilgrim in the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, but will shift him out of privacy and into the overarching Information Commissioner function for three months.

Pilgrim's five-year tenure as Australia's Privacy Commissioner is due to expire on Sunday.

His term's expiration risked leaving all three statutory officer roles that made up the OAIC vacant by the end of July - FOI Commissioner James Popple left in December and Information Commissioner John McMillan is preparing to move to NSW to become the state's new ombudsman.

However, in the dying days of Pilgrim's tenure, the Attorney-General's Department has decided to extend his term with the agency - but in McMillan's former role - for three more months, iTnews understands.

The OAIC today confirmed Pilgrim had been appointed as Australia's acting Information Commissioner. He will start in the role when McMillan takes leave from July 20 in the lead up to his departure on July 31.

Pilgrim will oversee the functions of all three statutory functions, exercising powers under the privacy, FOI and information commissioner acts.

The government's future plans for the Privacy and FOI Commissioner roles are unclear.

Late last night the Attorney-General's Department told iTnews decisions on the OAIC officer roles were a matter for government, but it would make arrangements to ensure their functions were fulfilled.

It has been approached for further comment in light of today's announcement.

The federal government gave the Privacy Commissioner $4.2 million in its most recent budget to cover the cost of monitoring telco responsibilities under Australia's new data retention regime.

The funding formed part of a small budget package the government was forced to provide despite its efforts to dissolve the agency.

Last year Attorney-General George Brandis announced the OAIC would be shut down as part of his party's 'smaller government' agenda and in an effort to save $10.2 million over four years.

But it failed to get the legislation required to shutter the agency passed through the Senate before the end of 2014 sitting, meaning the OAIC has continued to function in a depleted format pending the government's next moves.

This state of limbo led the government to promise $1.7 million over the next year as "transitional funding" to keep the office going until it could formalise the OAIC's closure by getting the legislation passed.

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