Deborah Anton named as the interim National Data Commissioner, leaving IP Australia

By Stephen Easton

August 9, 2018

The Office of the National Data Commissioner is up and running with public servant Deborah Anton moving into the key role on an interim basis, after three years as IP Australia’s chief operating officer.

Deborah Anton. Image: LinkedIn.

The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation, Michael Keenan, has announced that Anton will initially “lead the Turnbull Government’s public sector data reforms” from the new office within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“In line with recommendations from the Productivity Commission, the interim Commissioner will work closely with the Privacy Commissioner to help strengthen safeguards around the integrity, management and use of government held data,” he said in a statement.

“These safeguards will be enshrined in law through the delivery of a new Data Sharing and Release Act to simplify the complex web of more than 500 privacy and secrecy provisions that currently exist across government departments.

“The interim Commissioner will develop a new framework to improve access to non-sensitive data to help drive growth and innovation within the Australian economy.”

The data commissioner will get “technical advice” from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and work with an advisory council of up to 10 members, each of whom will be appointed for two years, representing the government, industry groups, privacy rights advocates and academia. Expressions of interest for membership of the council closed on July 20.

“Open data has the power to generate new careers, more efficient government revenues, improved business practices, and drive better public engagement.”

The council’s terms of reference state it will advise the commissioner “on ethical data use, social licence and building trust, technical best practice, and industry and international developments” and together they will try to “find the optimal balance between streamlining the sharing and release of data and ensuring the protection of individual privacy” and will meet 2-4 times per year.

Keenan points to a 2016 study from the Bureau of Communications and Arts Research, a small research body established in 2014, which estimated open government data could add 1.5% or $25 billion to Australia’s gross domestic product by facilitating higher productivity. The lower end of the estimated annual value, found in the report’s executive summary but not in the press release or the accompanying info-graphic, was far less: $500 million.

“Some of the high-value data sets include geospatial [or] mapping data, health data, transport data, mining data, environmental data, demographics data, and real-time emergency data,” the bureau’s chief Paul Paterson said at the time.

“Many Australians are unaware of the flow-on benefits from open government data as a result of the increased innovation and informed choice it creates. For example open data has the power to generate new careers, more efficient government revenues, improved business practices, and drive better public engagement.”

Minister Keenan said the new interim data commissioner had gained “wide-ranging experience in legislation, regulation, policy and program delivery” over 20 years in the Australian Public Service.

“Ms Anton assisted in establishing the Government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which is the primary point of contact for Australian businesses to prevent and respond to malicious activity,” he added.

“I congratulate Ms Anton on her appointment and trust that she will make a valuable contribution in shaping the future of the Australian data system.”

Anton became deputy director-general, policy and corporate, at the intellectual property arbitrator in mid-2015, after two-and-a-half years heading up the AusIndustry division of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. She was also the “Privacy, Data and Indigenous Champion” at IP Australia, according to her LinkedIn page.

Her appointment to PM&C at the level of first assistant secretary comes in the same week as IP Australia’s director-general, Patricia Kelly, retires from the public service.

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