House debates

Wednesday, 9 December 2020


Data Availability and Transparency Bill 2020; Second Reading

10:50 am

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.


I am pleased to introduce this bill which will create the Data Availability and Transparency Act, appropriately abbreviated to DATA.

This bill establishes a new data sharing scheme for federal government data, underpinned by strong safeguards to mitigate risks and simplified processes to make it easier to manage data sharing requests.

2020 has shown us how critical this piece of legislation is.

We started the year in the middle of one of the most disastrous bushfire seasons in recent memory, with thousands of Australians needing access to government services to support them through this difficult time.

Australians continue to face the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cost them their jobs and their livelihoods, and they are turning to their government for help.

Government data and digital services have been fundamental to the government's response to these events.

Data allowed Australians to receive timely and reliable services in a time of need.

Data allowed Australians to access government services online instead of queuing at Centrelink shopfronts.

It was data that informed the development of essential programs like the JobKeeper payment, so that we could provide relief to Australians who have lost their jobs during this pandemic.

The government's vision is that Australians experience the same seamless approach to government services every day, not just in times of crisis.

Federal government data sharing has the potential to make this vision a reality, but, unfortunately, layers of old, contradictory rules and slow, inconsistent ways of sharing data is stifling this potential.

We're working in a tangled data sharing system, and this bill is, frankly, designed to straighten it out.

Legislative outcomes

Let me be clear, the bill is not about publishing data on a website or releasing data without control.

This bill is about creating a scheme that will provide controlled access to data to trusted people and organisations.

This is why the bill establishes an independent regulator, the National Data Commissioner, who will oversee the scheme and hold all participants accountable to a robust standard of security and transparency.

The scheme will authorise sharing of government data for three permitted purposes, all in line with community expectations:

        Decisions to share will be made by the 'data custodian', the federal government agency responsible for the data.

        Only users accredited by the National Data Commissioner will be able to request and access data through the scheme. The National Data Commissioner must accredit all non-corporate Commonwealth agencies as users, as they are subject to the Privacy Act and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act. The minister may also direct the commissioner to accredit other Commonwealth bodies, like the National Disability Insurance Agency, if they meet the accreditation criteria. The minister may direct the commissioner to suspend or cancel the accreditation of public service users.

        The commissioner may also accredit data service providers, who may be other government agencies or commercial providers, to support data custodians and users to share data.

        The accreditation process will ensure that users and service providers have the right skills and resources to handle data safely and securely before they enter the scheme.

        The bill includes a risk management framework, the data sharing principles, based on the internationally recognised Five Safes framework.

        The principles provide a tool to assess the benefits and manage the strategic, privacy, security, ethical and operational risks of sharing.

        If a data custodian accepts a data sharing request, the sharing arrangement must be formalised in a data sharing agreement with the accredited user.

        This agreement will set the terms and conditions of a data sharing project, laying out how benefits will be realised and how risks will be mitigated.

        The National Data Commissioner must publish data sharing agreements on a public register to ensure transparency and accountability and promote trust in government data handling.

        A National Data Advisory Council, made up of some of the best minds in data, privacy and regulatory practice, will advise the National Data Commissioner on ethical data use and technical issues.

        All of these components come together to form a principles-based data sharing scheme, which will ensure the bill remains relevant and adaptable to evolving technology and changing community expectations.

        Specific powers will be given to the minister to make rules, while the National Data Commissioner will issue data codes, binding codes of practice that detail how to apply the legal provisions.

        By introducing this bill and the Data Availability and Transparency (Consequential Amendments) Bill today, we are acting on commitments made by the government in its response to the 2017 Productivity Commission inquiry into data availability and use.

        This inquiry highlighted the value of data-driven government services for Australians, and this bill lays the groundwork for us to realise these benefits and establish world-class connected, government services.


        This bill will streamline and modernise data sharing across the Australian government to support better service delivery, policies and programs and research.

        Data sharing will support us to develop simpler government services akin to myTax and Single Touch Payroll, saving Australians time by pre-filling forms with information already provided to government.

        Data sharing will support us to take a 'tell us once' approach to service delivery, so that Australian people and businesses would be able to receive tailored information, advice and services without having to waste time giving the same data to different agencies again and again.

        Data sharing will break down silos between agencies and, combined with myGov enhancements, simplify existing services to give Australians faster, easier access to government support.

        Data sharing will also support us to develop more tailored and targeted government policies.

        For example, controlled data sharing between government agencies led to the development of methods that resulted in fairer allocation of government funding to non-government schools.

        Data sharing will also support the Commonwealth and state and territory governments to work together on nationally significant policies and programs, such as the National Disability Data Asset, which aims to improve outcomes for people with disability, their families and carers.

        Data sharing will give researchers the opportunity to collaborate with federal government agencies to solve problems and save lives, like when prescription data was shared safely with health researchers who identified five medications as potential contributors to heart failure and stroke.

        These insights enabled the government to work with doctors to change prescription guidelines, minimise adverse effects, enhance patient safety and avoid the costs of hospitalisation and treatment.

        This bill will help us realise these benefits through safe and secure data sharing in line with community expectations.


        The bill is the product of extensive collaboration and consultation with federal government agencies, state and territory governments, researchers and academics, data and privacy advocates, and members of the community.

        Over two years of consultation we:

              The feedback from our consultation has been essential to building this bill on strong foundations.

              This bill has been developed using a 'privacy-by-design' approach, which means that privacy and transparency have been considered at every stage of the legislative development process.

              This is why we commissioned two independent privacy impact assessments of this bill that have told us that our safeguards are robust and our layers of defence are strong.

              The bill's approach to consent mirrors the approach in the Privacy Act, requiring consent be sought for the sharing of personal information, unless unreasonable or impracticable.

              The bill also includes other privacy-enhancing measures, such as data minimisation.

              Importantly, the bill will work with new regulations to exclude sharing of particularly sensitive data, such as the electoral roll, My Health Record and COVIDSafe app data.

              The National Data Commissioner will champion these safeguards and cooperate with other regulators, such as the Australian Information Commissioner, to ensure personal information is handled appropriately under the scheme.


              I would like to give my sincere thanks for the active and ongoing engagement from stakeholders and the community who have played an essential role in the development of this bill over a number of years.

              As we proceed to debate this bill, we are taking a significant step towards a different future. A future where policy decisions are enriched by strong data and government services are simple, helpful, respectful and transparent for the benefit of all Australians.

              More Australians than ever require government support to get back on their feet as they recover from COVID-19 and other recent national emergencies.

              This bill will support the government to respond to this need, and deliver tailored, targeted, and timely government services to people and businesses every day, not just in times of crisis. I commend the bill to the House.

              Debate adjourned.


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