OAIC to be left without statutory officers

The Privacy Commissioner’s appointment expires this week, while the Australian Information Commissioner formally resigns on July 31, leaving the OAIC potentially without any statutory officers. The government will need to find a solution to avoid FOI chaos.

The government has left unanswered questions about what will happen at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner after its two remaining statutory officers depart this month, fueling speculation the government is abolishing the body by stealth.

And if the government decides to draw out the replacement process it could cause headaches for public servants — they will need to either find someone to place in an acting role or renew the appointment of Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim to avoid a collapse in the freedom of information review process, says freedom of information and privacy law specialist Peter Timmins.

Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan, who it was announced last month would take over as New South Wales ombudsman from Bruce Barbour, will formally resign as head of the agency on 31 July, while the privacy commissioner’s five year term expires on 19 July. The OAIC’s third statutory officer, Freedom of Information Commissioner James Popple, left in December 2014 to join the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and has not yet been replaced.

Neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Attorney-General’s Department responded to requests about who would replace the three, or if a replacement process was underway.

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