Parliament urges Qld Govt to recruit privacy commissioner

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Parliament urges Qld Govt to recruit privacy commissioner

Position remains vacant after nearly three years.

A Queensland Parliamentary committee has politely reminded Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie that the state’s Office of the Information Commissioner is still waiting for a permanent privacy watchdog, nearly three years after the previous commissioner departed.

The legal affairs and community safety committee, chaired by LNP MP Ian Berry, has repeated its request for updates on a permanent appointment to the role. The last time it asked was in August last year.

The state’s first – and only – permanent Privacy Commissioner was Linda Matthews, who left the role in December 2011.

In a report tabled on Friday, the committee said it has “no concerns about the skill level and ability of the persons temporarily acting in the role of Privacy Commissioner” but is worried that the OIC’s long term direction has been destabilised by the absence of a permanent privacy chief.

When it made similar remarks last year, the Attorney General responded that he was “considering a way forward with regards to the recruitment and selection process” and promised he would “keep the committee informed”.

In a report tabled on Friday, however, the committee pointed out that “a considerable period of time has now passed since the Attorney General’s previous advice to the Committee.”

“It would be preferable for the vacant statutory position of Privacy Commissioner to be filled on a permanent basis as soon as possible.” 

 - Report: Oversight of the Office of the Information Commissioner

Bleijie defended the delay to iTnews, pointing out that the role was vacated before the LNP entered Government.

“Since then, Acting Commissioners with extensive relevant experience, eminent qualifications and diligence have filled the role,” he insisted.

The OIC is also still waiting on an overdue strategic review of its operations, which was supposed to have been completed by 1 July 2013 in accordance with the four-year revision cycle demanded by the Right to Information Act.

Both the OIC and the Committee approved the terms of reference for the review back in January 2013, but in November the Government advised that it would be delayed while it ushered in a suite of open government reforms.

“To avoid duplicating the work of the Open Government reform process, the Government has deferred commencing the first strategic review of the OIC. Further announcements on this matter will be made in due course,” it said.

Nearly a year later however, the Committee is growing impatient as it continues to wait on the deferred review.

“The Committee accepts the Government is undertaking further work in this area, but notes there is a statutory requirement in the RTI Act for a strategic review of the OIC to occur, which is now well overdue…[and] considers a further update on the status of the strategic review is required.”

Bleijie told iTnews on Friday that the statutory review is “ongoing”.

“We have already set new standards in Government openness and accountability with our open data revolution. For the first time in Australia, Ministerial diaries are now public as is an ever-growing range of other data,” he said.

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