The Commonwealth Government has proposed sweeping new data sharing laws would see data that is currently held by the Commonwealth Government made available to members of the public where there is a public or governmental benefit.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has released an issues paper that sought input from the public on the newly proposed Data Sharing and Release Bill (Bill). The Bill will be a part of a larger body of data reform that serves as a response to the Productivity Commission’s ‘Inquiry on Data Availability and Use‘. The purpose of the reform is to allow data to be more accessible to individuals, researchers and businesses to stimulate innovation and create opportunities for the Australian economy.

In determining whether data can be released, the Bill will introduce a ‘purpose test’ which will seek to limit data release and sharing to the follow specific purposes:

  1. informing government policy making;
  2. assisting in the delivery of governmental services or operations;
  3. supporting the implementation and assessment of government policy; or
  4. research and development that entails a clear and direct public benefit.

The Bill will provide for the release or sharing of data where the purpose test is satisfied and subject to appropriate conditions and safeguards being met. The issues paper proposes that the head of each relevant Government entity will bear the responsibility of determining whether data should be disclosed in accordance with the Bill and effectively serve as the ‘data custodian’.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have accepted feedback on the issues paper as a part of the consultation process. The feedback will soon be made public.