Accountability Round Table wrote to Christian Porter on his accession to the post of Attorney General to raise with him the continued inadequate resourcing of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Our initial letter can be read here The Attorney General’s reply is reproduced below.
The Hon Christian Porter MP
Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 Telephone (02) 6277 7300 Fax (02) 6273 4102
28 FEB 2018
The Hon Tim Smith AO QC
Accountability Round Table
Thank you for your email of 28 January 2018 regarding a range of matters related to resourcing of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). I appreciate the time you have taken to bring these matters to my attention.
I understand you have previously raised your concerns with my department and have received replies to your correspondence. I would like to reiterate some information that my department has previously provided in relation to these matters.
The Australian Government recognises the importance of the OAIC in discharging Australia’s responsibilities under the Open Government Partnership, and believes that current funding levels are appropriate for the OAIC to exercise those responsibilities. In addition to ongoing funding provided to the OAIC in the 2016-17 Budget, the Australian Government re-allocated FOI funding from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to the OAIC of $0.5m per year on an ongoing basis: see Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements 2017-18 for the OAIC at:
https://www.ag.gov.au/Publications/Bud gets/Budget2017-18/Pages/Portfolio-AdditionalEstimates-Statements-2017-18.aspx. The Australian Government considered it appropriate for this funding to be transferred back to the OAIC in recognition of the recent increase in FOI merits review workload.
In relation to the single commissioner model under which the OAIC is currently operating, the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 allows the Australian Information Commissioner to perform all the functions of the FOI Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner under that Act, the Privacy Act 1988, and the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The Australian Government appointed Mr Timothy Pilgrim PSM as Australian Information Commissioner and Australian Privacy Commissioner in October 2016, and the OAIC has continued to operate efficiently whilst ensuring that all of its FOI functions have been fulfilled under this model since July 2015.
In relation to implementation of commitments in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18, I note that progress for the milestones in the commitments is reported at: https://ogpau.pmc.gov.au/#.
The Australian Government continues to monitor the OAIC’s funding on an ongoing basis, including in the context of the current fiscal environment and other competing priorities.
Thank you again for bringing your concerns to my attention.
The Hon Christian Porter MP