Attorney-General's Department submission

13 March 2011

Australian Government
Attorney-General's Department
Priorities and Coordination Division


Prof John McMillan
Australian Information Commissioner
GPO Box 2999

Dear Professor McMillan

Comments on Towards an Australian Government Information Policy Issues Paper

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the issues paper, Towards an Australian Government Information Policy. The Attorney-General's Department (AGD) welcomes the initiative to move towards a whole-of-government approach to information sharing and management.

We note that AGD has the following policy responsibilities and interests relevant to information policy:

AGD is responsible for copyright law and whole-of-government management of intellectual property, as noted in Chapter 4, page 27. We note that any extended role that the OAIC may seek in coordinating responsibilities of information policy agencies should not include copyright policy, which will continue to be coordinated by AGD.

AGD is responsible for Commonwealth secrecy law policy and administration of the general secrecy laws under the Crimes Act 1914 and Criminal Code Act 1995.

AGD is responsible for information and cyber security policy, including production of the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) (formerly the Protective Security Manual (PSM)), containing requirements for the safeguarding of official resources and information that agencies hold on trust:

We suggest that this framework be included in the list of existing principles and guidelines provided in chapter 8.

I also draw your attention to a body of work currently being undertaken to update the Guidelines on Licensing Public Sector Information for Australian Government Agencies. This work follows the October 2010 amendments to the Intellectual Property Principles for Australian Government Agencies. Accompanying the revised IP Guidelines, an updated Australian Government IP Manual will be released to align it with the Gov 2.0 recommendations. Both of these documents will be completed by the end of the first quarter and circulated to stakeholders for comment pending final release.

The licensing guidelines are currently open for comment, and contributions can be made online at


AGO generally supports the Draft Principles for Open Public Sector Information, and note that they appear to be balanced and recognise that open government, while desirable in most circumstances, is not absolute and there are some legitimate circumstances where it would not be appropriate to make information publicly available. Some more detailed comments related to individual principles are below:

  • Draft principle 1: We support the retention of the phrase 'unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary', as this recognises that the principle of open access is not absolute. In particular, a sensitivity relating to the release of public sector is the rights of third party copyright owners. 'Information held by the Australian Government* may include both Crown copyright material and material where someone else owns the copyright. There are also other complexities in copyright regarding other mediums, including but not restricted to film and audio, where there may be multiple contributors to the work
  • Draft principle 2: We support the final point, which relates to appropriate engagement with stakeholders about access to information. We agree that this is important, and that agencies should consider stakeholders when making decisions about release of material that may have been fully or partly sourced from stakeholders or may have broader implications for stakeholders if publicly released
  • Draft principle 3: We support the final point regarding protection of information commensurate with the risk of harm
  • Draft principle 5; The final point requires controls to be put in place to avoid personal information being published inappropriately or inadvertently. We wonder if consideration has been given to making references to other types of confidential information, such as COMMERCIAL-IN-CONFIDENCE information, information that is subject to legal professional privilege and information that is, or ought to be, security classified. An explicit reference to these types may provide greater guidance as to other kinds of information that may legitimately need to be protected from public disclosure

We have no specific comment to make of draft principles 6 through 10 inclusive. The action officer for this matter is Alan Wu who can be contacted on (02) 6141 3578.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Walter
Assistant Secretary
Strategy and Policy Advice Unit
Telephone: (02) 6141 3402

AGO Comments on Towards an Australian Government Information Policy Issues Paper