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Chapter Two — Organisation overview

Role

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is an independent statutory agency, established under the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010. 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 would be disbanded from 31 December 2014. As of 30 June 2015, the legislation giving effect to this change had not passed Parliament. The OAIC remains responsible for privacy and FOI regulation.

See Chapter One: Year in review for more information about the Australian Government's decision.

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Functions

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 1988 (Privacy Act) and other legislation
  • freedom of information functions — protecting the public's right of access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

The OAIC carries out a range of activities in these three core areas, including monitoring statutory compliance, investigations, performance 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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Commissioners

The OAIC has three statutory positions. The Agency Head is the Australian Information Commissioner, who is 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 PSM 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.

Mr Pilgrim was awarded a Public Service Medal in the 2015 Australia Day Honours List for 'outstanding public service in the development and implementation of major reforms to the Privacy Act'.

Freedom of Information Commissioner — Dr James Popple

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

Prior to this, 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.

Dr Popple resigned from the OAIC on 31 December 2014 to take up an appointment as a Senior Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. As at 30 June 2015, the position of Freedom of Information Commissioner was vacant.

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Organisation structure

During the 2014–2015 financial year, the OAIC restructured internally to move from three branches to two, and closed its Canberra office in accordance with the Australian Government's decision to disband the OAIC. From 5 December 2014, the OAIC is located in Sydney and has two branches.

The branches are:

  • Regulation and Strategy Branch — provides advice and develops guidance and legislative instruments under the Privacy Act. This Branch also carries out Commissioner initiated investigations, performance assessments, and administers the voluntary data breach notification scheme and mandatory eHealth data breach notification scheme. The Strategic Communications and Coordination section also sits within the Regulation and Strategy Branch, supporting the OAIC by providing corporate and communications services. This section also manages the OAIC website.
  • Dispute Resolution Branch — carries out complaint resolution, investigations and FOI merits review. This Branch also manages the OAIC's public enquiries line and provides legal services and records management.

Chart 2.1 Organisation structure as at 30 June 2015

Australian Information Commissioner

John McMillan

Freedom of Information Commissioner

Vacant

Privacy Commissioner

Timothy Pilgrim

Assistant Commissioner
Dispute Resolution

Karen Toohey

  • complaints resolution
  • investigations
  • merits review
  • legal services
  • enquiries services
  • records management

Assistant Commissioner
Regulation and Strategy

Angelene Falk

  • advice and guidance
  • submissions
  • consultations
  • assessments and data-matching inspections
  • Commissioner initiated investigations
  • communications
  • information platforms
  • corporate services

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Outcome and programme structure

The OAIC had one outcome for 2014–15: 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 and upholding information access rights and proactive publication of public sector information
  • promoting and upholding information privacy rights
  • achieving organisational excellence by supporting and developing the OAIC's people, systems and processes
  • championing development of a national information policy that promotes public sector information as a national resource.

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 2014–15 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
  • exercise powers conferred on the OAIC by the Privacy Act and other laws to ensure compliance by entities with privacy requirements, including conducting performance assessments of personal information handling practices, conducting Commissioner initiated investigations and accepting enforceable written undertakings
  • foster public discussion and conduct educational programmes 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 2014–15 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.

The OAIC did not progress work under the information policy function in 2014–15, following the Australian Government's decision to discontinue this function and abolish the OAIC from 31 December 2014.

Table 2.1 OAIC Programme 1.1 deliverables
Programme deliverables
Key performance indicators
OAIC's 2014–15 performance
Further information
Privacy complaint handling services 80% of privacy complaints finalised within 12 months 98.3% of privacy complaints finalised within 12 months Chapter Six
FOI complaint handling services 80% of FOI complaints finalised within 12 months 81.2% of FOI complaints finalised within 12 months Chapter Seven
Privacy compliance activities Performance assessments finalised within six months Five performance assessments were finalised within six months Chapter Six
FOI merits review services 80% of IC reviews completed within 12 months 71.1% of IC reviews finalised within 12 months Chapter Seven
Information Publication Scheme agency reviews No target specified for this indicator The OAIC did not progress work in this area N/A
Privacy and FOI enquiries services No target specified for this indicator No target specified for this indicator Chapters Six and Seven
Advice and assistance on information management practices across the Australian Government No target specified for this indicator The OAIC did not progress work in this area N/A
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 2014–15 performance
Further information
OAIC merits review and complaint handling processes meet timeliness and quality benchmarks See Table 2.1 Chapters Six and Seven
The principles on open public sector information are promoted and understood across government The OAIC did not progress work in this area N/A
Australian Government agencies comply with the requirements of the Information Publication Scheme and disclosure logs The OAIC discontinued planning for the delivery of the next phase of the Information Publication Scheme compliance review due to the Australian Government's Budget decision to discontinue this function N/A
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 and FOI Chapter Four
The Information Advisory Committee and Privacy Advisory Committee are supported in their role of providing advice to the OAIC Following the Australian Government's Budget decision to disband the OAIC, the OAIC cancelled Information Advisory Committee and Privacy Advisory Committee meetings that were scheduled to be held during 2014–15 Chapter Four

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