Information Commissioner signals 23 OAIC jobs at risk

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Information Commissioner signals 23 OAIC jobs at risk
Information Commissioner John McMillan

Increasing workload could leave privacy complaints unseen.

Outgoing Information Commissioner John McMillan has raised the prospect of up to 23 job losses resulting from the abolishment of his office.

Responding to questions at a senate estimates hearing this morning, McMillan said an extra six staff could be transferred into a newly established Office of the Privacy Commissioner, around eight potentially moved into the Attorney-General’s Department, and one transferred to the Administrative Affairs Tribunal.

A representative of the Attorney-General’s Department said precise job loss figures were still hard to gauge but conceded that there would be some implications for staff.

Latest figures placed the pre-budget OAIC workforce at 63 full-time equivalent staff.

Budget papers released earlier this month revealed the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, along with McMillan’s job, would be abolished and its functions re-distributed to new areas of government to save roughly $10.2 million over four years.

The restructure and staff cuts come amid a dramatic year-on-year increase to the OAIC’s workload.

Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim informed the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee that the office received 3900 privacy complaints this year, already dwarfing the 1496 received in the full 2012-13 financial year.

He said despite current efforts to implement procedures to assess and triage such matters as they come in to ensure pressing issues are seen to, less pressing matters might now not be addressed.

Pilgrim also said recent reforms to the Privacy Act had given his office scope to refer some matters to external dispute resolution services, and he was now in talks with a number of such organisations.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon challenged Attorney-General George Brandis to admit the the staff cuts across privacy and FOI functions represented his “broken promise moment”, following pre-election commitments to transparency and openness in government.

“How can removing any number of staff from these functions when the work load is increasing reflect government’s commitment to openness and transparency?” she asked.

Brandis insisted the Government remained committed to "transparency and openness" and argued that the efficiency measures “serve these objectives”.

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