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Chapter Two — Organisation overview

 Contents

  1. Role
  2. Functions
  3. Commissioners
  4. Organisation structure
  5. Outcome and program structure

 Role

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is an independent statutory agency, established under the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 (AIC Act).

The OAIC brings together in one agency the functions of information policy advice and independent oversight of privacy protection and freedom of information (FOI) access.

 Functions

The three main functions of the OAIC are:

  • Information Commissioner functions — advising the Australian Government and agencies on information policy and management practice
  • privacy functions — protecting the privacy of individuals by ensuring proper handling of personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) and other legislation
  • freedom of information functions — promoting awareness of the public's right of access, under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), to documents held by the Australian Government.

The OAIC carries out a range of activities in these three core areas, including monitoring statutory compliance, investigations, audits, complaint handling, review of decisions, education and awareness, and providing advice to and promoting responsible information handling within government and the private sector.

 Commissioners

The OAIC is headed by the Australian Information Commissioner, supported by the Privacy Commissioner and the Freedom of Information Commissioner.

Australian Information Commissioner — Prof. John McMillan

Prof. John McMillan AO was appointed Australian Information Commissioner on 1 November 2010.

Prof. McMillan was formerly the Commonwealth Ombudsman from 2003–10; and the Integrity Commissioner (Acting) for the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity in 2007. He is an Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University.

Prof. McMillan was a founding member of the Freedom of Information Campaign Committee, which led the public campaign for enactment of the FOI Act. He is a National Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, and former President of the Australian Institute of Administrative Law.

Privacy Commissioner — Timothy Pilgrim

Mr Timothy Pilgrim was appointed Privacy Commissioner on 19 July 2010.

Mr Pilgrim was first appointed to the former Office of the Privacy Commissioner as Deputy Privacy Commissioner in February 1998. Prior to this he held senior management positions in a range of Australian Government agencies, including the Small Business Program within the Australian Taxation Office and the Child Support Agency.

Freedom of Information Commissioner — James Popple

Dr James Popple was appointed Freedom of Information Commissioner on 1 November 2010.

Before that, he worked for 12 years in the Australian Attorney-General's Department (AGD), with six years as First Assistant Secretary. Before joining AGD, he was a judge's associate, then Deputy Registrar of the High Court of Australia.

Dr Popple has degrees in law and arts, and is admitted as a barrister and a solicitor. He is also an Adjunct Professor of the Australian National University (in the College of Law and the College of Engineering and Computer Science) where he conducted his doctoral research in artificial intelligence and law.

 Organisation structure

The OAIC is co-located in Sydney and Canberra and has three Branches. In 2012–13, the OAIC undertook an organisational restructure. The new structure comprises three branches that each undertake work in relation to the OAIC's three functions, of information policy, privacy and FOI. This integrated structure offers flexibility in resource allocation, provides staff the opportunity to grow knowledge and skills, and enables the OAIC to find efficiencies through maximising use of skill-sets, prioritisation and work allocation.

The integrated branches are:

  • Regulation and Strategy Branch — provides advice on the application of the Privacy Act, the FOI Act and information policy. This Branch also carries out own motion investigations and audits.
  • Dispute Resolution Branch — carries out complaint resolution, investigations and merits review.
  • Corporate Support and Communication Branch — supports the OAIC through providing corporate, legal and communications services. This Branch also manages the OAIC website and public enquiries line.

Chart 2.1 Organisation structure as at 30 June 2013

Level 1: Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan. Level 2: Freedom of Information Commissioner, James Popple and Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim. Level 3: Assistant Commissioner Dispute Resolution, Toni Pirani (Acting); Assistant Commissioner Corporate Support and Communication, Alison Leonard; and Assistant Commissioner Regulation and Strategy, Angelene Falk. For further detail on the OAIC’s organisational structure refer to the organisational chart on the OAIC website at: www.oaic.gov.au/about-us/who-we-are/our-structure.

 Outcome and program structure

The OAIC had one outcome for 2012–13: Provision of public access to Commonwealth Government information, protection of individuals' personal information, and performance of information commissioner, freedom of information and privacy functions.

In order to achieve its outcome, the OAIC focused on four key areas:

  • promoting open government by encouraging proactive publication of government information
  • participating in developing and implementing a national information policy framework
  • promoting and securing the protection of personal information
  • enhancing the OAIC's capacity to achieve its vision of 'An Australia where government information is managed as a national resource and personal information is respected and protected'.

The OAIC had one program (Program 1.1) related to the outcome: complaint handling, compliance and monitoring, and education and promotion.

The OAIC's program objectives for 2012–13 were to:

  • conduct reviews of FOI decisions made by ministers and agencies
  • monitor, investigate and report on agency compliance with the FOI Act
  • assist agencies in implementing the Information Publication Scheme under the FOI Act
  • review agency compliance with the Information Publication Scheme
  • promote awareness and understanding of the FOI Act and its objectives
  • investigate complaints about compliance with the Information Privacy Principles and the National Privacy Principles
  • inquire into acts or practices that may be interferences with privacy
  • conduct audits of the personal information handling practices of Australian Government and Australian Capital Territory Government agencies and other organisations covered by the Privacy Act
  • foster public discussion and conduct educational programs to promote proactive publication, access to information and privacy protection
  • advise on information management in Australian Government agencies.

The OAIC's program deliverables and key performance indicators are set out in Tables 2.1 and 2.2 below. The tables set out information about the OAIC's performance in 2012–13 against each of the deliverables and key performance indicators. The tables also indicate where further information on each of these deliverables and key performance indicators is available in this report.

Three of the program deliverables in Table 2.1 are to finalise 80% of privacy and FOI complaints within a period of twelve months, and 80% of Information Commissioner reviews (IC reviews) within six months. The complaints that are treated as being finalised within twelve months are those received before or after 1 July 2012 and finalised within twelve months of receipt during the 2012–13 reporting year. Complaints received after 1 July 2012 and still on hand at 30 June 2013 are not counted in this analysis. Similarly, IC reviews that are treated as being finalised within six months are those received before or after 1 July 2012 and finalised within six months of receipt during the 2012–13 reporting year. IC reviews received after 1 July 2012 and not finalised within six months are counted in this analysis as cases that did not meet the six month finalisation target.

Table 2.1 OAIC Program 1.1 deliverables
Program deliverables
Key performance indicators
OAIC's 2012–13 performance
Further information
Privacy and FOI complaint handling services
80% of privacy complaints finalised within 12 months
93.5% of privacy complaints finalised within 12 months
Chapter 6
80% of FOI complaints finalised within 12 months
88.7% of FOI complaints finalised within 12 months
Chapter 8
Privacy compliance activities
Audits finalised within six months
No audits were finalised within six months
Chapter 6
FOI merits review services
80% of IC reviews completed within six months
25.2% of IC reviews finalised within six months
Chapter 8
Information Publication Scheme compliance reviews
10 IPS compliance reviews completed
No IPS compliance reviews undertaken
Chapters 5 and 8
Privacy and FOI enquiries services
No specific targets for this indicator
No specific targets for this indicator
Chapters 6 and 8
Advice and assistance on information management practices across the Australian Government
No specific targets for this indicator
No specific targets for this indicator
Chapter 5
Promotion and educational activities
No specific targets for this indicator
No specific targets for this indicator
Chapter 4

 

Table 2.2 OAIC performance against key performance indicators
Key performance indicator
OAIC's 2012–13 performance
Further information
Australian Government agencies have implemented and comply with the requirements of the Information Publication Scheme and disclosure logs
The OAIC released its report Open public sector information: from principles to practice
Chapter 5
Contributions are made, as appropriate, to any reviews undertaken by the government of the operation of the FOI Act
The OAIC completed two submissions to the Hawke Review of the FOI Act and the AIC Act
Chapter 8
The OAIC Principles on open public sector information are developed and promoted
The OAIC continued to promote and embed the Principles for open public sector information through submissions, speeches and policy engagement
Chapter 5
Criteria for assessing the effective use of public sector information are developed
In February 2013 the OAIC released its report Open public sector information: from principles to practice
Chapter 5
OAIC merits review and complaint handling processes meet timeliness and quality benchmarks
The OAIC completed 419 IC reviews, 149 FOI complaints and 1504 privacy complaints
Chapters 6 and 8
Information and education products on privacy, FOI and information policy are developed and meet stakeholder needs
The OAIC produced a range of information and education products on privacy, FOI and information policy
Chapter 4
The Information Advisory Committee and Privacy Advisory Committee are supported in their role of providing advice to the OAIC
The OAIC hosted two Privacy Advisory Committee meetings and three Information Advisory Committee meetings
Chapter 4