The Productivity Commission has set a hugely ambitious timeline of just 18 months to drive “fundamental and systematic change” into the way entities handle data on Australians.
The commission handed down its final report into data usage today following a six-month inquiry and draft report published in November last year.
Its calls in the final report do not differ substantively from those set out in the draft: it wants to give consumers more control over how their personal data is collected and handled, and unlock datasets to create value, such as for medical research.
What is new in the 658-page final report is the aggressive timeline in which the Productivity Commission believes the government should act.
It wants to see 11 changes to existing policy and regulation immediately, and another seven tackled within 12 months from now.
They include the drafting of new laws – which the PC thinks should be passed by the end of 2018 - as well as the creation of new data standards for government, a registry of publicly-funded data sets, and the installation of new national data overseers.
This planning would involve a myriad of federal, state and territory agencies, the commission said.
In addition, the commission said it wanted to see remaining “reform” goals achieved by the end of 2019 – where all the pieces put in place in the prior 18 months would integrate, ensuring Australia’s data machine was humming.
“The Australian government should set an ambitious timeline for reform implementation, and move quickly where administrative change is all that is required to put substance into new policies,” the commission said.
It warned that, should the government not move fast enough, the delays “would create a debilitating loss of policy momentum and forgo the possibility of early gains in community acceptance for reforms".
The commission also expounded on an assertion in its draft report that its proposed framework should be treated as a package that cannot be split.
“An underlying goal of the implementation plan should be to move forward in a way that retains and ultimately builds community confidence in what will be an all-encompassing data exchange between consumers, governments, researchers and business,” the commission said.
“The commission cautions against any temptation to decouple parts of the reform framework.
“In a project that aims to create new opportunity for both public and private benefit, each element supports the others.”
The government was handed a copy of the final report in late March, but - six weeks later - appears to be in no hurry to sign off on the suggested blueprint.
"A cross-portfolio taskforce has been established within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to consult with stakeholders and develop the government’s full response," it said in a statement today.