QLD and NSW lead the charge in Data Privacy: A new era of Public Sector accountability and protection

The recent passage of the Information Privacy and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 in Queensland, closely following New South Wales, marks a pivotal step in data privacy and protection in Australia’s public sector. This legislation compels state and local government entities to promptly notify individuals and the state’s privacy watchdog of data breaches that pose serious harm.

A QLD and NSW context

For public sector managers and executives in NSW and QLD, this development is significant. It aligns Queensland more closely with national privacy principles, enhancing public confidence in the region’s privacy laws. The new laws emphasise the importance of robust data protection strategies and proactive measures in handling data breaches. With the Commonwealth’s Notifiable Data Breaches Scheme not covering state entities, this state-level initiative fills a critical gap. Executives must now focus on ensuring compliance with these regulations, necessitating a thorough review of current data security measures and breach response protocols. The 30-day notification period, although extendable under certain conditions, underscores the urgency required in addressing data breaches.

The increased penalties for misuse of restricted computers (where public officers have misused confidential information) highlight the seriousness with which Queensland views data privacy. This move, catalyzed by high-profile breaches and a long-standing call from the Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland, signals a shift towards more stringent data protection norms in the public sector.

As NSW’s similar scheme takes effect, and Queensland’s set to follow, public sector leaders must stay ahead of these changes. Embracing these reforms not only safeguards sensitive information but also builds public trust. It’s a call for a proactive stance on privacy, aligning with broader national and global trends in data security and privacy.

A broader context

An additional aspect to consider is the broader context of privacy law reforms at the federal level. The federal government’s recent agreement to 106 proposals, either in full or in principle, arising from a review of the Commonwealth Privacy Act, is a testament to the evolving landscape of data protection in Australia. These reforms, expected to be legislated in 2024, will likely bring substantial changes to how personal data is handled across sectors, including increased obligations for data handlers and stronger rights for individuals regarding their personal information.

Implications for government funded entities

For NGOs and Nonprofits, new data privacy laws and mandated data breach reporting could represent a looming challenge. Heavily reliant on government funding and tasked with handling highly sensitive information, these organisations will soon find themselves under a microscope. The swift enforcement of these stringent data protection standards is not just probable but necessary to maintain public trust in the government-funded sector. Indeed, in NSW, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) has already published it’s notifiable policy for service providers on maintaining information security and advising on any information security breaches. NGO and Nonprofit entities must prepare for rigorous compliance demands, as any lapse in handling private data could lead to severe repercussions. It’s a pressing call for these organisations to also critically evaluate and enhance their data security practices, with the looming possibility of these changes being rapidly imposed to ensure the integrity of services involving sensitive citizen data.

As these changes unfold, public sector entities, and those that receive public funding must review and potentially overhaul their data security measures and breach response protocols. The upcoming federal reforms will likely introduce more stringent requirements, making it imperative for public sector organisations to be ahead in their data protection strategies. These changes present an opportunity for NSW and QLD public sector entities (and indeed all jurisdictions) to reassess and strengthen their data protection frameworks. As digital transformation accelerates, the ability to securely manage and protect data becomes a cornerstone of public trust and efficient governance.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Martin Scicluna

Partner & Principal Consultant

With over two decades of experience in transforming nonprofits (NGOs), government agencies, and educational providers by using smart data systems, Martin is a seasoned veteran. Possessing qualifications in engineering, his goal is to empower organisations to liberate their time and resources, boost capability, and achieve greater control and visibility over their teams and operations. Passionate about reducing waste and inefficiency, Martin and his team are committed to transforming clients' concepts into robust systems that deliver enduring, positive impacts and flexibility for the future. As a Partner in SmarterSoft, Martin takes a very hands-on approach to leadership. While overseeing the consulting and sales teams, he often dives into the work himself, driven by his enthusiasm for problem-solving. Beyond his professional life, Martin is an all-round sports enthusiast. Whether it's yoga, swimming, car racing, running, gyming, or hiking, he's always encouraging (and often demanding) the team to get out and enjoy some exercise!

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