The committee notes that the objectives pursued by the Bill are
fundamental to the government's core policy objectives of realising Budget savings,
and creating smaller and more efficient government.
The committee has carefully considered the concerns raised by the AHRC
in relation to the proposed arrangements for the Australian Privacy
Commissioner. The committee recognises the need expressed by the AHRC to ensure
that it is able to meet appropriate standards of governance, accountability and
practicality in relation to the management of its finances and staff. The
committee also acknowledges the perspective of the Privacy Commissioner on the
particular requirements of that role, and his preference for maintaining the
independence of the office.
The committee notes the advice provided by the Attorney-General's
Department that the type of arrangement proposed for the Australian Privacy
Commissioner is not unprecedented, and that the department is satisfied that it
will not compromise the ability of the AHRC President to comply with her
The committee takes the view that the amendment to the Bill proposed by
the AHRC is warranted, in as much as it is a relatively small change but one
which would give comfort to the AHRC, and may assist all involved, in ensuring
that lines of governance and accountability are clear and workable.
The committee recommends that item 3 of Schedule 2 of the Bill be
amended to provide, under the proposed new section 43A(3) of the Australian
Human Rights Commission Act 1986, that a member of staff of the AHRC made
available to the Australian Privacy Commissioner is subject to the directions
of the Commissioner 'in compliance with the Commissioner's statutory
The committee further acknowledges concerns raised that because the Bill
has been developed quickly to implement a Budget measure, it has pre-empted the
government's response to the Hawke Review, and limited the consultation process
that may otherwise precede such reform.
The committee believes that, notwithstanding the changes made by the
Bill, there remains a case for a broader review of FOI as recommended in the
Hawke Review and by many submitters. As the government itself has noted, the
Bill reforms the review and administrative machinery for FOI but does not seek
to change other substantive elements of the regime. A full review would allow
for the broad consultation that was not possible within the timeframe of this
Bill, and for holistic consideration of the effectiveness of the FOI regime and
the related information policy and activities of government.
The committee recommends that the government as soon as possible respond
to the Hawke Review, and conduct a consultation process as recommended in the
In the meantime, the committee considers that the Bill implements a
sensible structural efficiency measure which does not detract from the broader
integrity of the FOI regime. The government has made clear that the substantive
rights of citizens under FOI are not being weakened by the changes made by the
Bill. In fact, they will be enhanced by a more streamlined review process.
The committee recommends that, subject to Recommendations 1 and 2, the
Bill be passed.
Hon Ian Macdonald
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