Discussion paper

In 2016, the government asked the Productivity Commission to look at how data was used across the Australian economy. The Productivity Commission found Australia’s use of data was falling behind other countries and recommended data reforms to unlock the full potential of public sector data. The government is currently implementing the recommendations, including legislative reforms discussed in this paper.

In 2018, the Office of the National Data Commissioner was established within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to improve data sharing and use across the Australian public sector. The interim National Data Commissioner, Ms Deborah Anton, was appointed to oversee the development of new legislation to support these data reforms.

While the government currently shares data for a range of important and valuable projects, establishing these sharing arrangements involved onerous legal negotiations and resulted in inconsistent safeguards and standards. The new legislation, with a working title of Data Sharing and Release legislation, fulfils the needs of Australians to receive better public services, policies and research outcomes driven by transparency and accountability in the system.The new legislation will empower government agencies to safely share public sector data with trusted users for specified purposes. Its aim is to streamline and modernise data sharing, overcoming complex legislative barriers and outdated secrecy provisions. The legislation will also allow government agencies to draw on expert advice to assist them to share data safely using contemporary tools and techniques.

The Data Sharing and Release legislation will provide legal grounds to empower the government to share public sector data for specified purposes with the right safeguards. The open data agenda is already supported by a range of legal mechanisms, but government agencies need support to understand and use them. The National Data Commissioner will work with other government agencies and regulators, including the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner, to improve guidance on using existing mechanisms to release open data.

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