New Data Sharing and Release Bill Issues Paper is currently open for Consultation

Key Points
  • The proposed Data Sharing and Release Act is set to transform the way Government does business and makes decisions.
  • The Bill’s Issues Paper for consultation is currently open to the public for submissions.
  • The Government is also seeking expressions of interest from those who wish to sit on the National Data Advisory Council to assist the National Data Commissioner.

The Australian Government has released an issues paper outlining key principles that will guide the creation of proposed new legislation around the sharing and use of government data. Individuals and organisations can make submissions on the Issues Paper until 1 August 2018.
The proposed new Data Sharing and Release Act (which is currently a Bill) has been developed as a means to improve social and economic outcomes through the use of government data, by eliminating complex rules and regulations that hamper the release of non-sensitive information and prevent innovation and productivity.
The proposed law would apply to Commonwealth entities and companies as defined under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, in a bid to increase authorised sharing of data between these entities to inform cross-sectoral research, innovation and policy.
The Bill also includes appropriate safeguards to ensure the focus on streamlined release would not be done at the expense of data protection. Much like current New South Wales legislation (Data Sharing (Government Sector) Act 2015 No 60 (NSW) s7) the Bill introduces a purpose test that would limit authorised data sharing and release to specific purposes; that is, to:
  1. Inform government policy making
  2. Support the efficient delivery of government services or government operations
  3. Assist in the implementation and assessment of government policy
  4. Research and development with clear and direct public benefits
In addition, the Bill introduces the Five-Safes framework, an internationally recognised risk-management framework, that is designed to facilitate safe data sharing and prevent over-regulation. According to the Issues Paper, The five elements of the framework are:
  • Safe data: can the data disclose identity?
  • Safe people: can the users be trusted?
  • Safe setting: does the access environment prevent unauthorised use?
  • Safe outputs: are the project results likely to disclose identity?
  • Safe project: is the purpose of use appropriate?
This seeks to encourage Commonwealth entities and companies to think adaptably when creating controls on data and the manner in which it is accessed.
The proposed changes would also see the introduction of an independent National Data Commissioner who would be appointed to oversee the new data sharing and release framework. This role would be guided by a new National Data Advisory Council. The Government is currently seeking Expressions of Interest from those who would like to sit on the National Data Advisory Council. Expressions of Interest are open until 5pm on 20 July 2018.
Individuals and organisations who wish to contribute to the consultation process can do so via this link, and are encouraged to read the Issues Paper and consider the specific questions posed throughout it.
Post by John Kell and Ramza Martin

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