NSW's innovation minister Victor Dominello would have the power to force state government agencies to hand over data to the soon-to-be-established Data Analytics Centre under proposed legislation that has already passed the NSW upper house.
Under the bill, the minister would be able to order an agency to provide information to the DAC within 14 days of receiving written direction, in circumstances where “the premier has advised the minister that the data is required for the purpose of advancing a government policy”.
The minister could also request details of the kinds of data each agency holds, so he can decide what is available to the DAC when it is looking to inform a policy context. NSW universities are excluded from this provision.
In the case of state-owned corporations, which are generally given more freedom to operate at an arm’s length from government, the premier would need to give his approval and the relevant portfolio minister consulted before the data can be requested.
The secretary of the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation would have the power to report any cases of agency non-compliance to the premier, and to publicise any failure to comply in an agency’s annual report.
Dominello foreshadowed the new powers in October when he said he wanted the DAC to have the “legislative teeth” that would allow it to realise the government’s ambition of building an effective inter-agency information brokerage.
He said he wanted to take a “carrot and a stick” approach that would “ensure the heads of government agencies get with the program”.
Pitching the bill to the upper house, Minister for Ageing John Ajaka talked up the department’s potential to “make it easier for agencies to share data by providing the authority that was until now lacking”.
Under the current system, inter-agency data sharing is governed by a series of MOUs written up for each instance of exchange, and for each different agency participating in a project.
“Where traditionally agencies have been frustrated with the cumbersome, long-winded, entangled, bloated system for sharing information across government, they will now be able to share information in an efficient manner in a protected environment,” Ajaka said.
The bill makes it clear that any information exchanged with the DAC will continue to be subject to all of the safeguards of the NSW Privacy Act and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act. The DAC will become responsible for any breaches of the privacy rules that affect information in its custody.
The upper house knocked back several proposed amendments by the Greens, including outlawing the storage of any data shared with the DAC on computing infrastructure not owned by the state government.