The Attorney General’s Department is currently undertaking a review of the Privacy Act 1988. Several of the proposals for change to the Act, including introducing the concept of anonymisation, have implications for research, but the Discussion Paper does not directly include the way the Privacy Act affects the use of information for research purposes.
Research Australia’s submission highlights these areas and proposes that an expert group be formed specifically to work on the redevelopment of the NHMRC guidelines in parallel with drafting of proposed amendments to the Act.
Research Australia’s submission is available here.
The report of the Privacy Act Review is expected to be completed in mid 2022.
The Productivity Commission’s Draft Report on Public Sector Data Availability and Use, part of a 12 month Inquiry, has highlighted the public benefits of improving access to public data and has proposed significant reforms, including to improve access to data for researchers and to make researchers’ own data more accessible. While Research Australia is broadly supportive of the Commission’s draft recommendations, we have made substantive responses in relation to a number; particularly some that would affect the way research is conducted and funded.
As the quantities of data collected about all of us grows, so does our capacity to utilise this data for the benefit of all. As the Draft Report has identified, there is evidence that community attitudes to data and questions of privacy and security are changing, and legislation and government practices need to change to both reflect this change and enable us to harness this data as a valuable resource. Now is the time to act if we are to make the most of the opportunities public data provides to improve the delivery of government services and the health of our community, and to create the new economic opportunities and jobs of tomorrow. The Commission’s Draft Report is a very important step in what Research Australia acknowledges will be a long but fruitful journey in harnessing the transformative power of data in contemporary society.
Response to Productivity Commission Data Availability Draft Report December 2016