The Western Australian Government announces that it will start the process to implement privacy legislation in that state

August 12, 2019 |

Western Australia and South Australia have been outliers in not having any statutory framework for the protection of personal information. That is likely to change, a little, with the Western Australian Government through its Attorney General releasing a discussion paper titled Privacy and Responsible Information Sharing for the Western Australian public sector

As the name suggests whatever structure is implemented will only apply to personal information collected, used and stored by the Government and its agencies, statutory authorities and other instrumentalities. Even though it is a discussion paper the Government is clearly envisaging following the legislative structure adopted in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Each of those jurisdictions has a privacy and data protection act and has established an information commissioner as its regulator.  The role of the commissioner is generally divided between determining Freedom of Information claims and privacy related issues.  

With respect to privacy and data security issues the focus and operation of the legislation in those states are narrow. Currently the Victorian legislation is the most effective and comprehensive.  A real failing in Victoria, as with other jurisdiction, is the complaints mechanism; it is quite cumbersome and generally weak.  The action that can be taken is limited and where there is a structure available to prosecute a claim, taking Victoria as an example, the jurisprudence is disappointing.  In Victoria the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal the quality of the analysis in the limited number of decisions have been remarkably disappointingto date.  As a result it is little used by the legal profession.  It is not that there are not regular and egregious interferences with privacy, there are but it has been more productive to issue in the County or Supreme Court pleading causes of action in either equity or at common law than being bogged down in arcane arguments of administrative law where even a success leaves the applicant with a risable award. 

The media release, State Government’s commitment to stronger, clearer privacy protections for Western Australians, provides:

    • Enhanced privacy protections to bring WA into line with other states
    • A citizen-centric approach to determine how the information gathered by the public sector is collected, used, stored and managed
    • The Government is seeking input from the community. Submissions open until November 1, 2019

Western Australians will get more control over their privacy, better planning and delivery of public services and streamlined interactions with public sector agencies under proposed McGowan Government legislation, now open for public comment.

The McGowan Government is committed to Privacy and Responsible Information Sharing legislation to bring WA into line with other jurisdictions, and is seeking community feedback to come up with a model best attuned to the needs of Western Australians.

WA is one of only two Australian jurisdictions without privacy legislation, putting individuals and the State at considerable disadvantage. Currently, a person who believes their information has been incorrectly handled or shared has no clear pathway for complaint and resolution. To protect the privacy rights of individuals, the McGowan Government proposes to appoint a WA Privacy Commissioner.

The absence of privacy legislation has also resulted in a reluctance from other jurisdictions to share datasets with WA researchers seeking better outcomes in key areas such as health, education, planning and research. This is why WA’s world-leading researchers like Telethon Kids Institute have been calling for reform.

WA also does not have a clear, overarching information-sharing framework, meaning members of the public have to provide the same information to multiple public agencies when updating simple details like change of address, and government departments are not making the best use of their combined knowledge when delivering public services.

The WA Government is proposing to introduce a whole-of-government framework to meet the twin priorities of protecting Western Australians’ privacy and enabling information to be safely used for their benefit. 

A number of recent government reviews have recommended improved privacy protections and information sharing in government, including the 2016 Data Linkage Review undertaken by Professor Fiona Stanley, the Chief Scientist of WA Peter Klinken, and the former Government Chief Information Officer.

The consultation period will run until the end of October with written submissions due by Friday November 1, 2019. For more information, visit

A public information session will be held at the State Library on September 4, 2019 at 5.30- 6.30pm. For more information about the session and how to register:

Comments attributed to Attorney General John Quigley:

“Western Australians rightly expect their privacy to be respected and their information to be used responsibly.

“We want to make better use of the information held by public agencies for the benefit of the community. But we understand we can’t contemplate the expansion of information sharing without making sure we get privacy protections right.

“A Privacy Commissioner with enforceable powers to resolve complaints, and a Chief Data Officer to establish information-sharing standards are among the elements of the proposed legislation we are seeking feedback on.

 “The WA Government understands that privacy is important to Western Australians, and is committed to ensuring there is an opportunity to have a say on how to get this right for our State.”

Comments attributed to Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly:

“In an increasingly data-driven world, there is great opportunity for Government to use data to deliver more effective, efficient and seamless services for the Western Australian community.

“Better use of data has the power to improve everything we do, whether it is something as simple as renewing a licence, as complex as improving research into children’s health, or as important as reducing cases of family domestic violence.

“But of course, for us to make use of the data the State Government holds we need to ensure this information is safe and people’s privacy is protected.

“We are acting on the calls of the Western Australian community for greater accountability and transparency around the way data is collected, used, stored and shared.

“We encourage Western Australians to have their say about our plans to improve privacy and data sharing in Government so that we can ensure we are delivering the best outcomes for our community.”


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