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Question 6

Is your complaint about an Australian Government agency? (That is, a Commonwealth or federal government agency)

No

It is likely that the Commissioner is able to investigate your complaint, but there are exceptions that are set out below.

If you would like to make a complaint please go to our How do I make a privacy complaint page.

More information

Most Australian Government agencies have responsibilities under the Privacy Act.

The Privacy Act does not apply to the handling of records from the following Australian Government intelligence and national security agencies:

  • the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
  • the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)
  • the Office of National Assessments
  • the Defence Intelligence Organisation, the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) of the Department of Defence
  • the Australian Crime Commission
  • the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Similarly, the Privacy Act does not apply disclosures of personal information to ASIO, ASIS and DSD.

Have you complained to the respondent?

Usually, the Commissioner will not investigate your complaint unless you have already complained to the agency your complaint is about (the respondent). In limited circumstances, the Commissioner may investigate even though you have not complained to the respondent, for example where:

  • you have been unable to contact the respondent after repeated attempts; or
  • the person who would investigate your complaint is the same person you are complaining about.

You should allow the respondent a reasonable time in which to respond to your complaint. The Commissioner usually considers 30 days to be a reasonable time. If you receive no reply and have been unable to chase up a response, you can complain to the Commissioner. If you are not satisfied with the response to your complaint, you can complain to the Commissioner, even if 30 days has not passed. (Section of the Privacy Act to read: 40(1A))

The Commissioner may not investigate your complaint if it is reasonable for the respondent to continue trying to resolve your complaint, even after 30 days has passed.

Exceptions

  • The Privacy Act does not apply to letters or other articles in the course of transmission by post.
  • The Commissioner cannot investigate complaints about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Office of National Assessments, the Australian Crime Commission, or the Defence Intelligence Organisation, the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation or the Defence Signals Directorate of the Department of Defence.

Key points

  • Before lodging your complaint with the Commissioner you should first write to the respondent setting out your complaint, so that it has an opportunity to resolve your complaint.
  • You should allow the respondent a month to respond to your complaint.
  • If you receive no response from the respondent or it has not resolved your privacy complaint you can complain to the Commissioner.

Further information

Most Australian Government agencies are bound by the Privacy Act. State and local government bodies are not covered by the Privacy Act, with the exception of the Norfolk Island administration.

 Some examples of Australian Government agencies are:

  • the Department of Human Services (which includes Centrelink, Child Support and Medicare)
  • the Department of Defence (with some exeptions)
  • the Australian Taxation Office
  • the Department of Health
  • the Department of Immigration
  • the Australian Federal Police. 

Some Australian Government intelligence and national security agencies are not covered by the Privacy Act. These agencies are:

  • the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • the Australian Secret Intelligence Service
  • the Office of National Assessments
  • the Defence Intelligence Organisation, the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation and the Defence Signals Directorate of the Department of Defence
  • the Australian Crime Commission
  • the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

A complete list of Australian Government agencies is available from the Australian Government Directory.

If you are not sure if the agency you are complaining about is an Australian Government agency you can ask the agency directly and it will tell you. Alternatively, you can contact our Enquiries line and we will try to assist you.

Public primary schools, public high schools, public hospitals, state or territory buses, trains and ferries and local councils are all state or local government agencies and the Commissioner cannot investigate complaints about them (except for ACT public sector agencies under the ACT's Information Privacy Act 2014).

Most universities are state bodies and will not be subject to the Privacy Act. The exceptions are private universities and the Australian National University.

More information about how privacy law applies in Australia's states and territories can be found on our Other privacy jurisdictions page.

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