The Andrews Labor Government will merge the Office of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner and Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection into a single office, streamlining Victoria’s information and data oversight bodies.
A newly created Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) will look after freedom of information, privacy and data protection issues, matching similar New South Wales, Queensland and Commonwealth bodies.
This ensures the Victorian community has a single regulator to oversee Victoria’s FOI, public sector privacy and data protection laws, and provide independent advice to government across those closely-related fields. The new body will also help improve the way government manages information.
It will be led by an Information Commissioner, and will be supported by a Public Access Deputy Commissioner, who will improve FOI decision-making, and a Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner.
Legislation to establish the Office of the Information Commissioner will be introduced into Parliament shortly, delivering on the Labor Government’s election commitment to overhaul freedom of information, including:
- the ability to review Ministerial and Departmental decisions including under Cabinet exemptions
- reducing the time to respond to an FOI request from 45 days to 30 days
- reducing the time that agencies have to seek VCAT’s review from 60 days to 14 days
These reforms are only the first stage in improving transparency and access to information for Victorians. The Labor Government will shortly announce details of a comprehensive review of Victoria’s FOI legislation.
The Labor Government’s action on transparency contrasts with the former Liberal government who refused to release ambulance and CFA response data. The Labor Government immediately moved to release this information and is legislating to stop future governments from hiding it from the community.
Under existing structures, the FOI Commissioner handles complaints about government decisions and monitors legislative compliance. The Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection provides guidance to the public sector in dealing with personal information and provides a recourse for complaints from the community.
The current Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection, David Watts, and the current acting Freedom of Information Commissioner, Michael Ison, will both continue in their roles until OVIC is established.
Quotes attributable to the Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings
“We said that we’d overhaul Victoria’s freedom of information system to give Victorians better access to government information and we’re doing just that.”
“The Liberals hid damning evidence about the ambulance crisis and we’ve put an end to that. These changes will ensure that future governments can no longer keep Victorians in the dark about the issues that matter.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020