Western Australia to introduce government privacy laws

By Dan Holmes

May 19, 2024

John Quigley
WA Attorney-General John Quigley. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

The Western Australian government has tabled legislation that would strengthen the obligations of the government to protect citizens’ personal information.

The Privacy and Responsible Information Sharing Bill 2024 (PRIS) will modernise and strengthen privacy protections for Western Australians, enabling the safe and secure sharing of information across the government and with trusted external entities.

PRIS will combine privacy protections and a consistent information-sharing framework into a single bill. Under the legislation, Western Australians will be provided with clear and consistent pathways on the appropriate action to take if they have concerns surrounding the handling of their personal information by a Government agency.

Innovation and Digital Economy Minister Stephen Dawson said governments have a responsibility to make sure personal information is held securely and used for the public good.

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

“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.”

Data-sharing arrangements have great potential to benefit the health sector. The federal government also has an active agenda on health digitisation and data sharing arrangements between agencies and private health and aged care providers.

But this comes with risks. Health datasets are attractive targets for ransomware criminals due to their size and highly sensitive nature. Western Australia’s decision to combine data sharing and privacy laws is intended to provide a holistic operational framework that enables use, and prevents this from happening.

Alongside the PRIS is the proposed Information Commissioner bill. This would establish new officeholders — the information commissioner, privacy deputy commissioner, information access deputy commissioner and chief data officer. The information commissioner and privacy deputy commissioner would be independent statutory officeholders, reporting directly to parliament and having responsibility for privacy matters in WA. The chief data officer would promote a culture of transparency, accountability, and safe use of government information.

The announcement of the bills came on the same day as the Australian national cybersecurity coordinator publicised details of a data breach at former eScript provider, MediSecure.

Western Australian Attorney-General John Quigley said he was aware data security was a growing concern for 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,” he said.


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