House debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022


Data Availability and Transparency Bill 2020, Data Availability and Transparency (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020; Second Reading

6:23 pm

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business) Share this | Hansard source

I thank all those who have contributed to the debate. I especially thank the member for Maribyrnong for his constructive leadership and his support. It has been quite a pleasure to work with him. I also thank Deborah Anton, the Interim National Data Commissioner up until 2021. I thank Gayle Milnes, the National Data Commissioner Designate, for her work. I thank Kelly Wood, Susan Calvert, Paul Menzies-McVey and the ONDC team for their hard work and professionalism. I thank the senior CIOs of government—Chris Fechner, Charles McHardie, and Ramez from the ATO—for all of their work as well.

The Data Availability and Transparency Bill establishes a new scheme for sharing Australian government data. Underpinned by strong safeguards and simplified efficient processes, the scheme lays the groundwork for world-class data-driven government services that will benefit all Australians. This is critical legislation to advance our collective vision for Australia to become a leading digital economy and data-driven society by 2030. The legislation acts on commitments made by the government in response to the 2017 Productivity Commission inquiry into data availability and use. The Australian government demonstrated the benefits of data sharing in response to the COVID pandemic, establishing pathways for sharing critical data to save lives and livelihoods.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee and the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee all made recommendations for amendments. The government has carefully considered these recommendations and the dissenting report tabled by the Labor Party senators on the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. I thank all of those who've been involved in this, including the member for Isaacs, for their constructive engagement. This has necessarily been a detailed and considered process. Following these consultations, the government will now move a series of amendments with bipartisan support to clarify and enhance privacy protections and introduce additional safeguards in relation to national security concerns.

Amongst other things, the amendments will clarify that the scheme will not extend to the private sector during its initial establishment. The bill now provides for a review three years after the scheme's commencement, in addition to a review three months after the commencement of any amendments to privacy law which would have a material impact on the scheme. Reviews of the scheme will help ensure that it is operating as intended and remains relevant and adaptable to evolving technology and public expectation, and they will provide an opportunity to consider refinement or expansion in the future.

The government would also like to thank the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for its detailed consideration of the bill package and take this opportunity to formally respond to the three recommendations made by the committee. The committee's first recommendation was that assurances be provided to parliament about appropriate ongoing oversight by security agencies of data-sharing agreements and potential security risks. The government supports this recommendation and moves an amendment to ensure that data-sharing agreements take effect only once registered by the commissioner rather than upon party signature. This change mitigates potential risks by allowing the commissioner to work with relevant security agencies to identify agreements which may pose security risks or not comply with the Data Availability and Transparency scheme prior to any sharing occurring. In addition, foreign entities are not able to become accredited, which means that data cannot be shared with a foreign entity under the scheme.

Also related to national security, the committee's second recommendation was that findings of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security's inquiry into national security risks affecting the Australian higher education and research sector be taken into account when developing data codes and guidance material for the scheme and inform continued engagement with the national security community. The government supports this recommendation and will respond to outcomes of the inquiry once the final report is released. The government also notes the recently released guidelines to counter foreign interference in the Australian university sector and will consider this guidance in relation to the scheme in addition to the outcomes of the inquiry.

The committee's final recommendation was that the government consider whether amendments could be made to the Data Availability and Transparency Bill or further clarification added to the EM to provide additional guidance regarding privacy protections, particularly in relation to the de-identification of personal data. The government supports this recommendation and moves amendments to strengthen the privacy protections in the bill. The privacy protections include minimising the sharing of personal information as far as possible without compromising the data-sharing purpose, prohibiting the re-identification of data that has been de-identified, prohibiting the storing or accessing of personal information outside of Australia, making it mandatory for accredited data service providers to undertake any complex data integration for projects to inform government policies and programs in research and development, and requiring express consent for the sharing of biometric data.

Furthermore, a data code will require consent to be current and specific and provide that an individual may withdraw consent at any time with retrospective effect. Additional privacy protections will also be imposed dependent upon the data-sharing purpose. Personal information will be able to be shared without consent for the delivery of government services where the individual concerned is receiving the service.

The Data Availability and Transparency Bill minimises the sharing of personal information for informing government policies and programs and for research and development by promoting de-identification of data. The amendments also respond to concerns raised by Australian Labor Party senators in their dissenting report by increasing penalties, clarifying that data cannot be shared for compliance purposes and ensuring that consideration is given to reviewing the data-sharing scheme if changes to the Privacy Act are implemented following the current review of that act.

This legislation takes a significant step forward towards data-driven innovation across the economy, a step towards a future where policy decisions are enriched by strong data and government services are simple, helpful, respectful and transparent. Australians can have enormous confidence that the new scheme is world-class and that data sharing is the safest and most effective it can be. I commend the bill to the House.


No comments