Government agencies

Last updated: 6 August 2019

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  • The Privacy Act covers most Australian Government agencies
  • State and local government agencies arent covered
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics can legally collect your information in an official survey

Australian Government agencies and the Norfolk Island administration must follow the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act), except those listed below. 

The Privacy Act also covers some state ‘organisations’. These are listed in the Privacy Regulation 2013 and include Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy in New South Wales, and HomeStart Finance in South Australia.

If you’re unsure whether you must give your personal information to an Australian Government, state or territory agency when they ask, contact the agency. They must be able to explain the law that allows them to collect your personal information.

Agencies not covered by the Privacy Act

The Privacy Act doesn’t cover state and local government agencies, such as public hospitals and public schools.

It also doesn’t cover the following intelligence and national security agencies:

  • Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
  • Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
  • Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation 
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service
  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • Australian Signals Directorate
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation
  • Office of National Assessments

For more information about privacy laws in states and territories, see Privacy in Your State.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was set up to gather information from the community about a range of aspects of Australian life. The ABS can collect your personal information under Australian Privacy Principle 3 of the Privacy Act, because it relates to the primary purpose of the ABS.

When they ask you to answer questions in one of their official surveys, they always seek your willing cooperation. If you don’t supply the information, then the ABS can ask, in writing, that you do so under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (Census Act). If you don’t, you could be fined. If you’re prosecuted and convicted for not supplying the requested information, you can be fined up to $210 per day for each day you fail to supply the information after the deadline you were given.

The ABS must treat your personal information confidentially. The secrecy rules of the Census Act mean the ABS can’t release information they collect in a way that identifies an individual or household. There’s a fine of up to $25,200 or a penalty of 2 years imprisonment, or both, for an unauthorised disclosure of information collected under the Census Act by an officer of the ABS.

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