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Australia: Government to appoint Privacy Commissioner

The Attorney General ('AG') of Australia, Mark Dreyfus, announced, on 3 May 2023, that the Australian Government will appoint a standalone Privacy Commissioner in response to the growing threats to data security and the increasing volume and complexity of privacy issues. In particular, the AG stated that the appointment of the Privacy Commissioner will restore the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner ('OAIC') to the three-Commissioner model the Australian Parliament originally intended, and will meet Australians' expectations in equipping the privacy regulator with the resources and powers to meet the ongoing challenges of the digital age, and protecting their personal information. Notably, the AG noted that the current Australian Information Commissioner, Ms Angelene Falk, also holds the role of Privacy Commissioner, in a dual appointment, and will continue to hold the latter role until the merit-based selection process to fill the role of Privacy Commissioner is finalised.

Additionally, the AG announced that the Government has appointed Ms Toni Pirani as the new acting Freedom of Information Commissioner ('FOI Commissioner'), effective 20 May 2023, following the resignation of the former FOI Commissioner, noting that a merit-based selection process to select the ongoing FOI Commissioner vacancy has also been commenced.

You can read the press release here.

UPDATE (3 May 2023)

OAIC welcomes appointment of standalone Privacy Commissioner

The OAIC published, on 3 May 2023, a press release in which it welcomed the AG's announcement on the appointment of a standalone Privacy Commissioner and an interim FOI Commissioner. In particular, the OAIC clarified that the announcement means the OAIC will have three statutory office holders:

  • the Australian Information Commissioner (as agency head);
  • a Privacy Commissioner; and
  • a FOI Commissioner.

You can read the press release here.