Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
The Bill implements some of the recommendations made in the initial report of the joint review of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission by the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Finance, and HREOC. Further reports by the review are in preparation.
The Bill amends the HREOC Act to specifically empower HREOC to expend its resources on the functions of the Privacy Commissioner. However, the interim report rejected 'initial options being either to entirely remove the Privacy Commissioner from HREOC or to amend the Privacy Commissioner's role and functions to bring them fully into HREOC in line with other Commissioners'. The Bill makes no change to the Privacy Commissioner's role, noting that his functions, especially those relating to audits, 'are quite different from those of the other Commissioners'.
However, the Privacy Act, along with the other Acts establishing the positions of HREOC Commissioners is to be amended to provide general qualifications and requirements of knowledge and experience for each position as Commissioner.
A significant amendment provides that the management of HREOC, including the powers of a secretary under the Public Service Act, will now vest in the (currently) six Commissioners of HREOC collectively, instead of in the Human Rights Commissioner as at present. HREOC is expected to appoint an executive director who will be delegated management powers.
Another amendment provides that the Attorney-General can appoint either a full-time or part-time president of HREOC, and can appoint an acting president. In addition, the Commissioners will be able to elect one of their number to preside at Commission meetings if the president is absent.
The Government states that the Bill is designed 'to encourage Commissioners to act in a collegiate manner in the spirit of promoting the indivisibility and universality of all human rights'. A new Human Rights Commissioner has not yet been appointed.