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Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner - Home

Question 7

Is your complaint about:

  • your past or current employer and their handling of your employment record; or
  • how a politician or a political party has handled your information; or
  • the journalistic practices of a media organisation?

No

Sorry, the Commissioner is unlikely to investigate your complaint. Further information

Further information

Exemptions to the Privacy Act

There are certain respondents and specific acts and practices that are exempt from the Privacy Act. This means that the Commissioner cannot investigate complaints about these respondents, or about these acts or practices.

The handling of your employee records by your current or former employer

Private sector organisations are exempt from the Privacy Act in relation to how they handle employee records.

An 'employee record' means a record of personal information relating to the employment of a current or former employee. Examples of the type of information that is defined as an employee record include:

  • Your personnel file
  • records of leave taken, including the reasons for leave
  • records of your performance and any action taken to manage your performance
  • payslips and group certificates
  • records of your application or interview for employment, if you were then employed
  • records of work health and safety assessments
  • workers compensation claims.

The Commissioner cannot investigate complaints about acts or practices relating to your employee record that are directly related to an employment relationship with your current or former employer.

The Commissioner may be able to investigate acts or practices of your employer or former employer that fall outside the scope of the employment relationship; for example, if your employer sold your personal information to another organisation for marketing purposes. The Commissioner may also be able to investigate acts and practices involving personal information collected from people applying for work, who are then not employed by that organisation. (Section of the Privacy Act to read: 7B(3))

The handling of your personal information by political representatives and parties

The Commissioner cannot investigate acts or practices carried out by political representatives or registered political parties in connection with their participation in the political process, including elections and referendums as these acts and practices are exempt from the Privacy Act under section 7C.

However, Australian Government ministers have responsibilities under the Privacy Act in relation to personal information they handle in their role as minister (Sections of the Privacy Act to read: 6C(1), 7C).

Journalism by a media organisation

A media organisation is an organisation whose activities consist of the collection, preparation and dissemination of news, current affairs, information or documentaries.

A media organisation is not subject to the Privacy Act if:

  • it is carrying out journalistic activities; and
  • it is publicly committed to observing published, written standards that deal with privacy.

A list of some media organisations that are publicly committed to observing privacy standards, and their codes of practice, can be found on the following websites:

These web sites include information about how to make a complaint (Section of the Privacy Act to read: 7B(4)).

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