21 May 2024

WA implements nation-first privacy laws to better protect personal state-held data

| James Day
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State Parliament building

Under the privacy legislation, individuals will be provided with pathways if they have concerns surrounding the handling of their personal information by a state agency. Photo: WA State Parliament Facebook.

The Western Australian Government has introduced new laws to protect personal information held by the state, the first legislation of its kind in the country.

The Privacy and Responsible Information Sharing Bill 2024 (PRIS Bill) is set to strengthen privacy protections and enable secure sharing of information across government and with trusted external entities.

The PRIS bill introduces new privacy principles to guide WA’s public-sector agencies on approved systems and processes to handle personal information. It also includes a scheme for mandatory reporting of “notifiable information breaches” to the Information Commissioner and affected members of the community.

Attorney-General John Quigley said the government was well aware that the protection of people’s private information was a significant concern for West Australians.

“With recent high-profile breaches in the private sector compromising sensitive information about our community, our government is more committed than ever to ensure that information we hold is well protected,” Mr Quigley said.

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The state has also introduced the Information Commissioner Bill 2024 (IC Bill) to establish and make provision for the office of Information Commissioner, Information Access Deputy Commissioner and Privacy Deputy Commissioner.

Both the Information Commissioner and Privacy Deputy Commissioner will have what the government says are robust powers to consider and resolve privacy complaints.

The government says the IC bill will allow it to work more efficiently with other jurisdictions on important issues such as family and domestic violence.

A Chief Data Officer has also been established to lead and develop public-sector capability for responsible information sharing. They will be expected to promote a culture of transparency, accountability and safe use of state information.

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Innovation and the Digital Economy Minister Stephen Dawson said as custodian of these valuable data sets, the government also had a responsibility to ensure they were used to make better decisions, deliver seamless public services and drive innovation for public benefit.

“The proposed Privacy and Responsible Information Sharing legislation is designed to support WA’s digital future and create a framework of accountability,” Mr Dawson said.

“It enables modern digital government services for our community in a safe, privacy-preserving environment.

“Solving complex social, economic and health issues requires us all to work together and share information in a safe and secure manner.”

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