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Chapter Two — Organisation overview


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.

On 13 May 2014, the Australian Government announced as part of the 2014–15 Budget that the OAIC will be disbanded from 31 December 2014.

The Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) will continue to be administered by the Privacy Commissioner and supporting staff from an office based in Sydney. OAIC functions under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) will be administered jointly by the Attorney-General's Department, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The information policy advice function currently discharged by the OAIC will cease. See Chapter One for more information about the Australian Government's decision.

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The three main functions of the OAIC are:

  • Information Commissioner functions — providing strategic advice on information policy and practice in the Australian Government
  • privacy functions — ensuring proper handling of personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act and other legislation
  • freedom of information functions — protecting the public's right of access to documents under the FOI Act.

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

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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 AO

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.

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Organisation structure

The OAIC is located in Sydney and Canberra and has three branches that each undertake work in relation to the OAIC's three functions of information policy, privacy and FOI.

The 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 Commissioner initiated investigations (CIIs) and performance assessments
  • Dispute Resolution Branch — carries out complaint resolution, investigations and FOI 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 2014


Australian Information Commissioner

John McMillan


Freedom of Information Commissioner

James Popple


Privacy Commissioner

Timothy Pilgrim

Assistant Commissioner Dispute Resolution

Karen Toohey

  • complaints resolution
  • investigations
  • merits review

Assistant Commissioner Corporate Support and Communication

Alison Leonard

  • communications
  • corporate services
  • legal services
  • records management
  • information platforms
  • enquiries services

Assistant Commissioner Regulation and Strategy

Angelene Falk

  • advice and guidance
  • submissions
  • consultations
  • assessments and data-matching inspections
  • Commissioner initiated investigations

Photograph of the six members of the OAIC Executive.

The OAIC Executive. From left to right: Alison Leonard (Assistant Commissioner, Corporate Support and Communication), James Popple (FOI Commissioner), John McMillan (Australian Information Commissioner), Timothy Pilgrim (Privacy Commissioner), Karen Toohey (Assistant Commissioner, Dispute Resolution), Angelene Falk (Assistant Commissioner, Regulation and Strategy).

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Outcome and programme structure

The OAIC had one outcome for 2013–14: 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 the strategic goals of:

  • 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 programme (Programme 1.1) related to the outcome: complaint handling, compliance and monitoring, and education and promotion.

The OAIC's programme objectives for 2013–14 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 to review their compliance with the Information Publication Scheme
  • promote awareness and understanding of the FOI Act and its objectives
  • investigate complaints about compliance with the Privacy Act
  • 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 programme 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 2013–14 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.

Table 2.1 OAIC Programme 1.1 deliverables
Programme deliverables
Key performance indicators
OAIC's 2013–14 performance
Further information
Privacy and FOI complaint handling services 80% of privacy complaints finalised within 12 months 97.5% of privacy complaints finalised within 12 months Chapter Seven
80% of FOI complaints finalised within 12 months 82.3% of FOI complaints finalised within 12 months Chapter Eight
Privacy compliance activities Audits/performance assessments finalised within six months Two audits/performance assessments were finalised within six months Chapter Seven
FOI merit review services 80% of IC reviews completed within 12 months 71.2% of IC reviews finalised within 12 months Chapter Eight
Information Publication Scheme agency reviews No target specified for this indicator No target specified for this indicator Chapters Five and Eight
Privacy and FOI enquiries services No target specified for this indicator No target specified for this indicator Chapters Seven and Eight
Advice and assistance on information management practices across the Australian Government No target specified for this indicator No target specified for this indicator Chapter Five
Promotion and educational activities No target specified for this indicator No target specified for this indicator Chapter Four
Table 2.2 OAIC performance against key performance indicators
Key performance indicator
OAIC's 2013–14 performance
Further information
Australian Government agencies comply with the requirements of the Information Publication Scheme and disclosure logs The OAIC continued to respond to questions and requests for advice from agencies about their IPS and disclosure log obligations. The OAIC also commenced planning the delivery of the next phase of the IPS compliance review Chapter Eight
The Principles on open public sector information are promoted and understood across government The OAIC continued to promote and embed the Principles on open public sector information through submissions, speeches and policy engagement Chapter Five
OAIC merits review and complaint handling processes meet timeliness and quality benchmarks See Table 2.1 Chapters Seven and Eight
Information and education products on privacy, FOI and information policy meet stakeholder needs The OAIC produced a range of information and education products on privacy, FOI and information policy Chapter Four
The Information Advisory Committee and Privacy Advisory Committee are supported in their role of providing advice to the OAIC The OAIC hosted one joint Privacy Advisory Committee and Information Advisory Committee meeting Chapter Four

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