The Council will help the National Data Commissioner to find the right balance between streamlining the sharing and release of data and ensuring the protection of privacy and confidentiality. During its first year, the Council will advise on the development of the new Data Sharing and Release legislation.
The Council held its inaugural meeting on 27 March 2019 and will meet between two and four times per year. The Council comprises nine members from the Australian government, business and industry, civil society groups and academia. Government representatives are the Australian Statistician, the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner, and the Australian Chief Scientist. The Council’s members have been appointed by the Government for two-year term.
The National Data Advisory Council held its fifth meeting virtually on 26 August 2020.
The Minister for Government Services, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, welcomed the Council and discussed the increasing importance of the data reforms to Australians. He stressed the importance of providing better and more streamlined government online services, policies, and research.
The meeting was chaired by Dr Phillip Gould from the Office of the National Data Commissioner. It focused on the overall data reforms milestones, key developments to the Data Availability and Transparency Bill (the Bill) since the Council last met, progress on the accreditation framework enabling user participation in the legislated scheme, and plans for public consultation on the legislation.
The Council provided advice to improve clarity of purpose, understanding and communication of concepts in the Bill that enable service delivery. They also recognised changes to the scope of legislation, as negotiated across the government. Council members advised when the draft Bill is presented to the public, it should be clear on concepts such as public interest, ethics approvals, and improving research access to government data. The Council noted a second independent Privacy Impact Assessment on the Bill was being finalised. This second Privacy Impact Assessment supports the ‘layers of defence’ in the Bill, including data minimisation and consent requirements.
The draft accreditation framework was briefly discussed by the Council, which noted the role of accreditation in the scheme and provided views on ensuring the accreditation process balances rigour and ease of access. The Council discussed circumstances where liability rests on individuals versus organisations. They also acknowledged that certain groups in the community who may not be able to meet the accreditation criteria may still benefit from having access to public sector data. Practices in the research community that are relevant to the accreditation framework were also examined at the meeting.
Finally, the Council noted the engagement strategy for the upcoming public release and consultation of the Bill and reiterated the importance of building trust in the data sharing scheme. The Office of the National Data Commissioner highlighted the challenges of genuine engagement with the public via online channels, however the Council attested to the rigour of the approach already undertaken through publicly engaging on the Bill over the past two years.
The Council agreed that the National Data Advisory Council would meet again before the end of 2020.
The fourth meeting of the National Data Advisory Council was held via video conference on Friday, 6 March 2020. Deborah Anton, interim National Data Commissioner, welcomed Dr David Gruen to the National Data Advisory Council and congratulated him on his appointment as Australian Statistician.
Ms Anton updated the Council on its work since the previous meeting in November 2019. This included working on the draft legislation, the privacy impact assessment on the proposed legislation, as well as starting to build the implementation framework for the data sharing system. The Council was provided with a draft Discussion Paper on an Accreditation Framework and members explored issues around what are the appropriate criteria for Accredited Data Service Providers and Accredited Users, and the controls and criteria to be applied. Discussion covered current practices in the research community that are relevant to the framework.
The Council advised the areas of consent and commercial use remains an area of interest and recommended the Office develops good guidance to ensure data sharing is in the public interest as one means to add control. The Council also advised that control and transparency measures are critical and reiterated the need to have accessible materials during consultation.
The Council also heard about work the Office has been doing to improve how it engages with the public. Analysis with focus groups has highlighted better ways to engage with the public, in language that is more clear and understandable for the Australian community.
The Council also talked about what is happening more broadly in the data environment both domestically and internationally and implications for the new data sharing system.
The Minister for Government Services, the Hon Stuart Robert, thanked Mr David Kalisch for his contribution as Australian Statistician to the work of the Council before completing his term. He discussed with the Council key themes which emerged during public consideration of the discussion paper and how important reforming public data sharing is to deliver seamless, easy and fast services for Australians. It will also allow researchers to solve public problems with data collected and used by the public sector.
The Interim National Data Commissioner, Ms Deborah Anton, provided the Council with insights into key policy issues emerging from the 78 submissions to the Discussion Paper and 24 public consultation sessions held over September and October 2019. The role of consent, commercial use of data and accreditation were the subject of substantive discussions.
The Council advised the starting question for data sharing should be – what will the public benefit be and how can we best achieve that for the right purposes with the right safeguards? Guidance on when consent should be sought is needed, but the Council cautioned that truly informed consent can be difficult to obtain: both in practice securing it from an individual, and in ensuring consent is meaningful and voluntary. The Council noted that the data sharing discussion paper proposes that, even where consent is gained, consent does not exempt custodians and users from other obligations under the Data Sharing and Release legislation.
In relation to commercial use, the Council itself had divergent opinions, consistent with views put forward in the consultation process. They cautioned that it is a complex matter that requires careful consideration.
Discussions of a new accreditation framework for data users delved into how the legislation would operate in practice to build trust and increase transparency of data users and data use. Council members said there is a need to convey to the research community approval processes will be streamlined over time but existing data sharing arrangements will remain in place and researchers will not lose access to data which has already been granted under existing legislation.
The Council was given an update on the broader data policy work underway within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, particularly the Data Integration Partnership for Australia.
The Council members highlighted the criticality of building data capability across the Australian Public Service in concert with the legislation to minimise risk and maximise the benefits of data sharing.
Members agreed that the National Data Advisory Council would meet again in the first quarter of 2020.
The National Data Advisory Council held its second meeting in Melbourne on 26 July 2019.
The Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert, announced the appointment of Professor Sallie Pearson to the Council. He outlined the critical role he sees public sector data playing, particularly to improve citizens’ experience when dealing with and accessing government services.
The Interim National Data Commissioner, Ms Deborah Anton, updated the Council on the consultation and engagement undertaken since the last meeting and outlined the plan for further engagement on the data sharing and release framework. This is expected to include two further rounds of consultation, first supported by a Discussion Paper and the second, on release of exposure draft legislation.
The draft Discussion Paper was the focus of the afternoon’s deliberations. Discussion largely focussed on the Council providing views on questions raised by the paper, including: consent, commercial use of data and how best to communicate data issues. In particular, the Council advised on the importance of clearly distinguishing between the open release of data and controlled sharing of data, and the legislative and institutional arrangements for each.
The Council discussed work which the ONDC had undertaken to better understand community attitudes towards government use of data. The Council noted public views have the potential to change quickly and depend on the timing and nature of the messages.
The Council discussed the importance of developing a public narrative on the legislation. They advised the ONDC to continue engaging with the community, talking clearly about the benefits of data sharing and using authentic stories which will resonate with citizens. They also emphasised the importance of acknowledging the risks and how they can be effectively managed. The Council considered the approach of the Office of the National Data Commissioner (ONDC) to building and generating trust in the public sector data system. A key element of building trust will require maturing data management capabilities in the Australian Public Service.
The Council commended the ONDC on the work undertaken since the last Advisory Council meeting, and highlighted there is still a lot of work remaining ahead of finalising the new data sharing and release legislation.
Members agreed that the National Data Advisory Council would meet again before the end of 2019.
The first meeting of the National Data Advisory Council was held in Sydney on 27 March 2019.
Then Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation, the Hon Michael Keenan, congratulated Council members on their appointment. He emphasised the key role of the Council in guiding the National Data Commissioner on issues such as ethical data usage and building trust with the community, as Australia’s data sharing and release arrangements undergo major reforms.
The Interim National Data Commissioner discussed the aims of the National Data Commission and members discussed their ambitions for the National Data Advisory Council. Members endorsed the Council’s terms of reference.
The Council considered the policy framework for new data sharing and release legislation, which aims to improve access to public sector data, while strengthening data safeguards.
The Council also discussed the importance of a strong public engagement plan to build understanding and support for the new legislation.
Members noted that this is a very complex task and ongoing consultation is critical to build understanding and trust. Council members emphasised:
- the importance of building a strong evidence base and a clear narrative to support legislative change
- the need to build trust and transparency in government use of data
- that the new framework should be as simple and transparent as possible
- the need to include strong, and auditable, risk management frameworks in the legislation
- that the public service needs to improve data capability, at the same time as it transforms its culture.
Members agreed that the Council would meet twice more in 2019.
Role of the National Data Advisory Council
The National Data Advisory Council (‘the Council’) will provide advice to the National Data Commissioner on ethical data use, trust and transparency, technical best practice, and industry and international developments.
This includes, but is not limited to, assisting the National Data Commissioner to find the optimal balance between streamlining the sharing and release of data and ensuring the protection of privacy.
The National Data Commissioner may also request advice from the Council on specific issues relating to the broader data environment.
The Council will have up to ten members including the National Data Commissioner. The Council will comprise members from the Australian Government (including independent statutory office-holders), business and industry, civil society groups and academics.
Initial members were appointed by the Government for two-year terms.
Government members attend in the capacity of the position they hold, including as independent statutory office-holders. The Australian Statistician, Chief Scientist and the Information and Privacy Commissioner each have a key role to play in ensuring the Australian government data is effectively and safely managed.
Non-government members attend in their individual capacity, based on their skills and understanding of the data ecosystem. They will draw on their knowledge and networks in providing advice to the National Data Commissioner. They will be paid sitting fees and costs related to meeting attendance. New non-government members will be sought through an Expression of Interest process (conducted by the Office of the National Data Commissioner) with appointments confirmed by Government.
The Council will meet between two and four times per year. Meetings will be chaired by the National Data Commissioner.
Meetings will take place in Canberra, or in other state capitals. Teleconference facilities will be made available to members who are unable to travel to Canberra, or other locations, for a meeting.
Meetings will be held at times which ensure the Council’s advice can support existing governance and decision structures and key decision points.
A summary of each meeting will be published on the www.datacommissioner.gov.au website.
Members will also have access to an online forum to discuss matters between meetings.
The quorum for Council meetings will be at least six members, including the Chair.
The Council will be supported by the Office of the National Data Commissioner.