Victoria’s Attorney-General Robert Clark has announced that David Watts will become the state’s inaugural privacy and data protection commissioner, following the successful passage of revised privacy legislation.
The new role has been created through the consolidation of functions previously formed by the Victorian privacy commissioner and the police-focused commissioner for law enforcement data security.
It will be a seamless transition for Watts, who has been acting in both roles for some time.
A new office supporting the commissioner is in the process of being established, made up of staff from the previously separate bodies.
“Mr Watts brings a wealth of experience to the role,” said Clark.
“With a background as a lawyer specialising in information technology, information privacy, intellectual property, and regulatory systems, Mr Watts is well-placed to implement the new personal and data security framework."
The state's new privacy laws took effect last week, and lay the groundwork for Watts to put together a whole-of-government protective data security framework. They also give him newfound discretion to give agencies temporary exemptions from privacy obligations when it is deemed in the state’s best interest – such as in the case of information exchanges between agencies.
"Effective sharing of information across government agencies can often be vital to the public interest, whether to save lives in bushfires or other emergencies or to better protect potential victims in the context of family violence, child abuse or other criminal activities," Clark said.
The new laws will apply only to state government agencies in Victoria.
The Australian Privacy Principles, adopted by the Commonwealth in March this year, apply to Commonwealth agencies and all private organisations will an annual turnover exceeding $3 million.