Streamlining the responsible sharing of public sector data

  • In response to the Productivity Commission's 2017 report on Data Availability and Use (the PC's Data Report), the Australian Government accepted the need to reform the way public sector data is shared. 
  • On 9 December 2020, the Australian Government introduced the Data Availability and Transparency Bill 2020 (DAT Bill). 
  • Below, we examine the DAT Bill, the submissions recently made on it by a number of interested parties and the research and commercial opportunities it is intended to facilitate. 

What is the DAT Bill? 

The DAT Bill seeks to facilitate the sharing of 'public sector data' (meaning data that is lawfully created, collected or held by or on behalf of a Commonwealth body) between government departments and private sector organisations to encourage the delivery of more effective government services, result in better-informed policy, and stimulate research and development projects. 

The new framework is intended to provide an alternative pathway for data sharing, where sharing would otherwise be prevented by secrecy provisions, or slowed by other burdensome and complex arrangements. 

The sharing, collection and use of the public sector data will be safeguarded by a number of principles and procedures, summarised below. The DAT Bill also establishes the National Data Commissioner (NDC) to oversee the data sharing scheme and advocate for better practices in sharing and releasing data. The NDC will be entrusted with a range of enforcement powers, including issuing written directions and infringement notices, and otherwise pursuing civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance with the scheme. 

Overall, the DAT Bill raises interesting prospects for public and private sector organisations with research and development focused initiatives, who stand to benefit from utilising significant sets of public sector data that may become available for use. 

The DAT Bill is currently before the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. Submissions to the Committee closed on 12 March 2021, and the Committee was expected to release its report on 29 April 2021. The submissions made to the Senate Committee are accessible here. 

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