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Thursday, 25 September 2008
Page: 5578


Senator WORTLEY (9:32 AM) —Following the receipt of satisfactory responses, on behalf of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall withdraw:

   Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in my name for eleven sitting days after today for the disallowance of the Higher Education in External Territories Guidelines 2008, and

   Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in my name for thirteen sitting days after today for the disallowance of the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (DEEWR) Amendment Determination 2008.

I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Committee’s correspondence concerning these instruments.

Leave granted.

The correspondence read as follows—

Higher Education in External Territories Guidelines 2008

28 August 2008

The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education

Suite MG.41

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

I refer to the Higher Education in External Territories Guidelines 2008 made under section 238-10 of the Higher Education Support Act 2003

The definition of ‘explanatory statement’ in section 4 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 requires an explanatory statement to explain the purpose and operation of the instrument. The Committee’s practice is to ask for an item-by-item explanation of provisions in an instrument. The Explanatory Statement that accompanies this instrument simply reproduces, in abridged form, the purpose provisions from each Chapter of the instrument. No further explanation of particular provisions is given. The Committee would therefore appreciate a revised and more detailed explanation for this instrument.

The Committee would appreciate your advice on the above matter as soon as possible, but before 12 September 2008, to enable it to finalise its consideration of these Guidelines. Correspondence should be directed to the Chair, Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, Room SG49, Parliament House, Canberra.

Yours sincerely

Senator Dana Wortley

Chair


22 September 2008

Senator Dana Wortley

Chair

Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances

Room SG49

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Senator Wortley

Thank you for your letter of 28 August 2008, concerning the Higher Education in External Territories Guidelines 2008 (the Guidelines).

I note the Committee’s concerns regarding the adequacy of the Explanatory Statement to the Guidelines, for the purposes of section 4 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003.

A copy of the revised Explanatory Statement to the Guidelines is attached, which provides a more detailed item-by-item explanation of each provision in the instrument.

I trust this information enables the Committee to finalise its consideration of the instrument.

Yours sincerely


ATTACHMENT A

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

Issued by the authority of the Minister for Education

Subject:  Higher Education Support Act 2003

Higher Education in External Territories Guidelines 2008

Authority

Section 238-10 of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (the Act) provides that the Minister may make guidelines for the purposes of the Act. In particular, Item 6A of the table in subsection 238-10(1) specifies that the Minister may make Higher Education in External Territories (HEET) Guidelines (Guidelines) to give effect to matters set out in Chapter 6 of the Act.

Background

Part 6 of the Act provides for approval of existing higher education institutions or proposed institutions to be approved as various kinds of higher education entities and the accreditation of higher education courses of study, in each case in relation to an Australian external territory. This part of the Act also provides that persons who do not have approval or accreditation under this part of the Act may be guilty of an offence if they operate as a university or other higher education provider, offer higher education awards or describe themselves as universities.

In October 2007, the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) agreed to revised National Protocols for Higher Education Approval Processes (National Protocols) after extensive consultation with stakeholders.

The National Protocols are available at:

http://www.mceetya.edu.au/mceetya/national protocols for higher education mainpage,15212.html .

MCEETYA tasked the Joint Committee on Higher Education (JCHE) with developing National Guidelines to set out necessary matters of detail for implementation and to increase the consistency of approval processes for higher education institutions and courses across jurisdictions. The National Guidelines were developed with comment and input from a wide range of higher education stakeholders.

The National Guidelines have been agreed to by the relevant ministers in all jurisdictions. The National Guidelines are available at: http://www.mceetya.edu.au/mceetya/national protocols for higher education mainpage,15212.html.

The HEET Guidelines incorporate the National Protocols and the National Guidelines by reference and must be read in conjunction with those documents as they are in force at the time the HEET Guidelines are made by the Minister.

Consultation

Following on from the extensive consultation on the National Protocols and the National Guidelines, the HEET Guidelines were also distributed for comments from the higher education sector in January 2008. They were distributed to the following peak bodies: the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET), the Council of Private Higher Education (COPHE) and Universities Australia (UA). ACPET and COPHE suggested minor amendments regarding inclusion of fees for non self-accrediting higher education entities and appeal processes: these suggestions have been incorporated. UA agreed to the draft guidelines being made and registered in the form in which they were circulated.

Commencement

These Guidelines commence the day after the day they are registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments.

Overview of the Higher Education in the External Territories Guidelines

Chapter 1 provides an introduction to and outline of the guidelines broadly similar to this document. It explains that the HEET Guidelines give effect to the National Protocols and National Guidelines, as approved by MCEETYA in October 2007, in the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction. Potential applicants would be remiss if they failed to read these documents which are in the public domain.

Chapter 2 provides potential Applicants with information about obtaining an application form, CRICOS approval, fees and charges, and limitations on marketing, advertising and public statements during the approval process, and review and appeals processes.

Section 2.5 requires applicants to write to request application forms which can then be provided by e-mail or physical post. Because the external Territories is a very small jurisdiction, it is desirable to establish early awareness of any interest in establishing a higher education entity to operate in an external Territory.

Fees and charges are set in section 2.15 to reflect the costs expected to be incurred in an assessment process by the Commonwealth. As the external Territories include remote locations, the costs of an assessment process are likely to be high and because the number of applications is likely to be low due to the small size of the jurisdiction, there is unlikely to be potential to amortise costs over a number of potential higher education entities.

The provisions of section 2.30, Review of Decisions, reflect standard procedures for administrative review under Commonwealth Acts. It enables applicants to seek review if they are dissatisfied with a decision and to make application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the review.

Chapter 3 sets out information about applications for approval as a non self-accrediting higher education entity in relation to an Australian external Territory and specifies matters to which the Minister will have regard in making decisions.

Section 3.5 requires the applicant to complete an approved application form addressing the evidence to be provided by initial applicants as set out in section 17 of the National Guidelines for the Registration of Non Self-Accrediting Higher Education Institutions and the Accreditation of their Course/s.

Sections 3.10 through 3.20 specify the main features of the assessment process. In particular, section 3.10.5 enables the Minister to request additional information where an application is found to be incomplete upon initial assessment, section 3.15 enables the Minister to decide that an application is lacking sufficient merit to warrant establishment of an assessment committee and section 3.20 describes how an assessment committee will be established should such be required.

Section 3.25 identifies the specific sections of the National Guidelines that apply in consideration of applications for registration as a non self-accrediting higher education entity in the external Territories. It also specifies the other matters the Minister may have regard to, including the offshore operations, if any, of the applicant, the recommendations of the assessment committee and the recommendations of the Department.

Section 3.30 specifies that an applicant may be approved to operate as a non self-accrediting higher education entity in an external Territory for a maximum of five years. It also identifies that the Minister may impose conditions on the approval where these are deemed necessary, including on advice from the assessment committee or the Department.

Section 3.35 specifies the requirements for approval to continue to operate as a non self-accrediting higher education entity in an external Territory. At 3.35.10, this section specifies that, in addition to matters covered by sections 17-19 of the National Guidelines, the Minister may take into account compliance with any conditions imposed in the course of initial approval.

Section 3.40 specifies that the Minister will provide reasons in writing for a refusal of an application as soon as possible after the decision.

Section 3.45 acknowledges that mutual recognition across jurisdictions will be in accordance with sections 12 and 19 of the National Guidelines.

Chapter 4 sets out information about applications for the accreditation of a course of study leading to a higher education award in relation to an Australian external Territory and specifies matters to which the Minister will have regard in making decisions.

Section 4.5 requires the applicant to complete an approved application form addressing the evidence to be provided by initial applicants as set out in section 18 of the National Guidelines for the Registration of Non Self-Accrediting Higher Education Institutions and the Accreditation of their Course/s.

Sections 4.10 through 4.20 specify the main features of the assessment process. In particular, section 4.10.5 enables the Minister to request additional information where an application is found to be incomplete upon initial assessment, section 4.15 enables the Minister to decide that an application is lacking sufficient merit to warrant establishment of an assessment committee and section 4.20 describes how an assessment committee will be established should such be required.

Section 4.25 identifies the specific sections of the National Guidelines that apply in consideration of applications for accreditation of a course or courses to be offered by a non self-accrediting higher education entity in the external Territories. It also specifies the other matters the Minister may have regard to, including the offshore operations, if any, of the applicant, the recommendations of the assessment committee and the recommendations of the Department.

Section 4.30 specifies that a course or courses may be accredited to be offered by a non self-accrediting higher education entity in an external Territory for a maximum of five years. It also identifies that the Minister may impose conditions on the accreditation of a course or courses where these are deemed necessary, including on advice from the assessment committee or the Department.

Section 4.35 specifies the requirements for accreditation of a course or courses to continue to be offered by a non self-accrediting higher education entity in an external Territory. At 4.35.10, this section specifies that, in addition to matters covered by section 18 of the National Guidelines, the Minister may take into account compliance with any conditions imposed in the course of initial accreditation.

Section 4.40 specifies that the Minister will provide reasons in writing for a refusal of an application as soon as possible after the decision.

Section 4.45 acknowledges that mutual recognition across jurisdictions will be in accordance with sections 12 and 19 of the National Guidelines.

Chapter 5 sets out information about applications for approval as a self-accrediting higher education entity other than a university in relation to an Australian external Territory and specifies matters to which the Minister will have regard in making decisions.

Section 5.5 requires the applicant to complete an approved application form addressing the evidence to be provided by initial applicants as set out in section 20 of the National Guidelines for Awarding Self-Accrediting Authority Higher Education Institutions other than Universities.

Sections 5.10 through 5.20 specify the main features of the assessment process. In particular, section 5.10.5 enables the Minister to request additional information where an application is found to be incomplete upon initial assessment, section 5.15 enables the Minister to decide that an application is lacking sufficient merit to warrant establishment of an assessment committee and section 5.20 describes how an assessment committee will be established should such be required.

Section 5.25 identifies the specific sections of the National Guidelines that apply in consideration of applications for awarding self-accrediting authority to a higher education entity in the external Territories. It also specifies the other matters the Minister may have regard to, including the offshore operations, if any, of the applicant, the recommendations of the assessment committee and the recommendations of the Department.

Section 5.30 specifies that an applicant may be approved to operate as a self-accrediting higher education entity other than a university in an external Territory for a maximum of five years. It also identifies that the Minister may impose conditions on the approval where these are deemed necessary, including on advice from the assessment committee or the Department. In particular, section 5.30.10 specifies that the Minister may require a successful applicant to comply with any or all of the post-approval processes identified in sections 13-19 of the National Guidelines for Awarding Self-Accrediting Authority Higher Education Institutions other than Universities.

Section 5.35 specifies the requirements for approval to extend the scope of an entity’s self-accrediting authority in an external Territory. At 5.35.10, this section specifies that, in addition to matters covered by section 20 of the National Guidelines for Awarding Self-Accrediting Authority to Higher Education Institutions other than Universities, the Minister may take into account compliance with any conditions imposed in the course of initial approval.

Section 5.40 specifies that the Minister will provide reasons in writing for a refusal of an application as soon as possible after the decision.

Section 5.45 acknowledges that mutual recognition across jurisdictions will be in accordance with section 12 of the National Guidelines for Awarding Self-Accrediting Authority Higher Education Institutions other than Universities.

Chapter 6 sets out information about applications for approval as a university in relation to an Australian external Territory and specifies matters to which the Minister will have regard in making decisions.

Section 6.5 requires the applicant to complete an approved application form addressing the evidence to be provided by initial applicants as set out in sections 16-19 of the National Guidelines for Establishing Australian Universities.

Sections 6.10 through 6.20 specify the main features of the assessment process. In particular, section 6.10.5 enables the Minister to request additional information where an application is found to be incomplete upon initial assessment, section 6.15 enables the Minister to decide that an application is lacking sufficient merit to warrant establishment of an assessment committee.

Section 6.20 describes how an assessment committee will be established should such be required, including consultation with applicant on proposed membership of the assessment committee. Section 6.20.15 specifies that one of the duties of the assessment committee is to notify the public about the proposed university and to conduct consultation with interested parties, both of which involve making public aspects of the proposal other than those commercial and in-confidence.

Section 6.25 identifies the specific sections of the National Guidelines that apply in consideration of applications for establishing a university in the external Territories. It also specifies the other matters the Minister may have regard to, including the offshore operations, if any, of the applicant, the recommendations of the assessment committee and the recommendations of the Department. Section 6.25.5 specifies that the Minister may approve an applicant with an unmodified university title, with a modified university title, or a university college title.

Section 6.30 specifies that an applicant may be approved to operate as a university with a specified title in an external Territory for an initial period of up to five years. It also identifies that the Minister may impose conditions on the approval where these are deemed necessary, including on advice from the assessment committee or the Department.

Section 6.35 specifies that the Minister may require a successful applicant to comply with any or all of the post-approval processes identified in sections 11-14 of the National Guidelines for Establishing Australian Universities.

Section 6.40 specifies the requirements for approval to continue to operate as a university in an external Territory. At 6.40.10, this section specifies that, in addition to matters covered by sections 16-19 of the National Guidelines for Establishing Australian Universities, the Minister may take into account compliance with any conditions imposed in the course of initial approval. At 6.40.15 through 6.40.25 this section further provides for an applicant to apply to move from operating as a university college in an external Territory to operating as a university in an external Territory.

Section 6.45 specifies that the Minister will provide reasons in writing for a refusal of an application as soon as possible after the decision.

Chapter 7 sets out information about approval of an application to operate as an overseas higher education entity in relation to an Australian external Territory and specifies matters to which the Minister will have regard in making decisions.

Section 7.5 requires the applicant to complete an approved application form addressing the evidence to be provided by initial applicants as set out in sections 17-19 of the National Guidelines for the Overseas Higher Education Institutions seeking to operate in Australia.

Sections 7.10 through 7.20 specify the main features of the assessment process. In particular, section 7.10.5 enables the Minister to request additional information where an application is found to be incomplete upon initial assessment, section 7.15 enables the Minister to decide that an application is lacking sufficient merit to warrant establishment of an assessment committee and section 7.20 describes how an assessment committee will be established should such be required.

Section 7.25 identifies the specific sections of the National Guidelines that apply in consideration of applications for registration as an overseas higher education entity in the external Territories. It also specifies the other matters the Minister may have regard to, including the offshore operations, if any, of the applicant, the recommendations of the assessment committee and the recommendations of the Department.

Section 7.30 specifies that an applicant may be approved to operate as an overseas higher education entity in an external Territory for a maximum of five years. It also identifies that the Minister may impose conditions on the approval where these are deemed necessary, including on advice from the assessment committee or the Department.

Section 7.35 specifies the requirements for approval to continue to operate as an overseas higher education entity in an external Territory. At 7.35.10, this section specifies that, in addition to matters covered by sections 17-19 of the National Guidelines, the Minister may take into account compliance with any conditions imposed in the course of initial approval.

Section 7.40 specifies that the Minister will provide reasons in writing for a refusal of an application as soon as possible after the decision.

Section 7.45 acknowledges that mutual recognition across jurisdictions will be in accordance with section 11 of the National Guidelines.

Chapter 8 sets out the circumstances in which the Minister may seek further information relating to an application for approval as a higher education entity or for accreditation of a course of study, in relation to an Australian external Territory. Non-compliance by the specified date with requests for further information will be construed as withdrawal of an application. Applicants may apply for further time to provide the information requested.

Chapter 9 identifies the circumstances in which a person that operates or purports to operate in an external Territory as a university or other provider of courses of study leading to higher education awards commits an offence under the Act and the Criminal Code (Cwth).

Appendix 1 provides definitions and a glossary of terms for interpretation of the Guidelines


Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (DEEWR) Amendment Determination 2008

28 August 2008

The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education

Suite MG.41

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

I refer to the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (DEEWR) Amendment Determination 2008 made under subparagraph 209(a)(i) and paragraph 209(b) of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999. This instrument permits the disclosure of protected information to the Family Responsibilities Commission of Queensland.

The Explanatory Statement that accompanies this instrument notes that the Federal Privacy Commissioner was consulted in relation to new sections 16A and 16B but does not indicate what comments, if any, the Privacy Commissioner made about the sections. The Committee considers that it would assist in understanding the nature of the consultation that has been carried out if this information was included in the Explanatory Statement. Notwithstanding any changes to the Explanatory Statement, the Committee would appreciate further information on the Privacy Commissioner’s response to the new sections.

The Committee would appreciate your advice on the above matter as soon as possible, but before 12 September 2008, to enable it to finalise its consideration of this instrument. Correspondence should be directed to the Chair, Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, Room SG49, Parliament House, Canberra.

Yours sincerely

Senator Dana Wortley

Chair


15 September 2008

Senator Dana Wortley

Chair

Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Senator Wortley

Thank you for your letter of 28 August 2008 regarding the Explanatory Statement to the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (DEEWR) Amendment Determination 2008 (DEEWR Amendment Determination).

The Explanatory Statement to the Amendment Determination notes that the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAHCSIA) consulted with the Privacy Commissioner in relation to the sections inserted into the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (DEEWR) Determination 2008 (DEEWR Determination) by the DEEWR Amendment Determination. FAHCSIA undertook this consultation in connection with the identical amendments made to the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (FAHCSIA) Determination 2008 (FAHCSIA Determination). The DEEWR Determination was amended in June 2008 to mirror amendments made to the FAHCSIA Determination in May 2008 following this consultation, in order to ensure consistency in the application of the protected information provisions of the social security law.

As consultation with the Privacy Commissioner on the relevant sections was undertaken by FAHCSIA, it would be more appropriate for the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to reply to your inquiry and I have copied the Minister into my letter for her information.

Yours sincerely

Julia Gillard

Minister for Education


18 September 2008

The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Suite MG.51

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister

I refer to the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (FAHCSIA) Amendment Determination 2008 and the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (DEEWR) Amendment Determination 2008 made under subparagraph 209(a)(i) and paragraph 209(b) of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999. These instruments, which mirror each other, permit the disclosure of protected information to the Family Responsibilities Commission of Queensland.

The Explanatory Statement that accompanies these instruments notes that the Federal Privacy Commissioner was consulted in relation to new sections 16A and 16B but does not indicate what comments, if any, the Privacy Commissioner made about the sections. The Committee considers that it would assist in understanding the nature of the consultation that has been carried out if this information were included in the Explanatory Statement. Notwithstanding any changes to the Explanatory Statement, the Committee would appreciate further information on the Privacy Commissioner’s response to the new sections. The Committee is writing to you at the suggestion of the Minister for Education.

The Committee would appreciate your advice on the above matter as soon as possible, but before 23 September 2008, to enable it to finalise its consideration of these instruments. Correspondence should be directed to the Chair, Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, Room SG49, Parliament House, Canberra.

Finally, thank you for your letter of 28 August 2008 offering to remove the phrase “an incorrectly held opinion” from these instruments. This addresses the Committee’s earlier concern and, as a result, the Committee will remove its disallowance notice on the FAHCSIA Determinations as soon as practicable, though it intends to maintain an interest in the issue of consultation. The Committee would appreciate your advice when the amendment to these instruments has been completed.

Yours sincerely

Senator Dana Wortley

Chair


23 September 2008

Senator Wortley

Chair

Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Senator Wortley

Thank you for your letter of 18 September 2008 about the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) Determination 2008.

You requested further information on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s (OPC) response to new sections 16A and 16B of the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (DEEWR) Amendment Determination 2008.

Mirror provisions are contained in sections 17 and 18 of the Social Security (Public Interest Certificate Guidelines) (FaHCSIA) Determination 2008 (the Guidelines). The OPC’s comments in relation to these two sections of the Guidelines are provided in Attachment A. My Department gave serious consideration to all the comments provided by the Privacy Commissioner.

Section 17- Establishment and operation of the Families Responsibilities Commission

In particular, the OPC expressed concern that the Queensland Family Responsibilities Commission (QFRC) could find itself in possession of a large amount of personal information (through the agency notices) about individuals who are not ‘community members’, and are therefore not necessary to QFRC’s purpose, powers or functions.

Under the Family Responsibilities Commission Act 2008 (QLD) (the Queensland Act), school principals, the education chief executive, the child protection chief executive, the clerk of the court and lessors are required to give the QFRC an ‘agency notice’ containing personal information under a set of circumstances set out in Part 4 of the Queensland Act. The disclosure of personal information by various Queensland agencies to the QFRC is authorised under the Queensland Act, and this is not a matter that I have responsibility for.

Under section 7 of the Queensland Act, a person is a ‘community member’ if the person is a ‘welfare recipient’ and the person satisfies a locational requirement. Section 48 of the Queensland Act specifically allows the QFRC to have regard to the postal address of a person, or address of the place of residence of a person, last known to the Centrelink Secretary, in determining whether the person satisfies the locational requirement of the definition of ‘community member’.

Section 17 of the Guidelines would allow the disclosure of information by the Department of Families, Housing, Communities and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), through Centrelink, to the QFRC to assist the QFRC in determining whether a person is a ‘community member’. This enables the Secretary of FaHCSIA, or his/her delegate, to determine that it is necessary in the public interest to disclose information to enable the QFRC to correctly identify persons who are within the jurisdiction of the QFRC.

The OPC suggested that FaHCSIA may like to consider other ways in which the decision about whether a person is a ‘community member’ could be achieved before information about an individual is disclosed to the QFRC. I note that the process around the making of this decision is governed by the Queensland Act and is a matter for the Queensland Government to determine. However, I understand that the Queensland Government has given serious consideration to the process and nature of information exchanges authorised under the Queensland Act, to ensure appropriate privacy safeguards are in place to protect personal information. Further, any social security and family assistance information that is provided to QFRC continues to be protected, under the confidentiality provisions of the social security and family assistance laws, against unauthorised use or disclosure.

The OPC also suggested FaHCSIA may like to consider including additional guidance in the Guidelines relating to the handling of records and the destruction of personal information that is not necessary to QFRC’s purpose, functions or activities. I consider that the QFRC has responsibility for the handling and destruction of any personal information they collect and it would be up to the QFRC to develop any such guidelines. As noted above, any information provided is already subject to stringent levels of protection under the social security and family assistance laws.

Section 18 - Other matters of relevance

The OPC indicated they would like a clearer explanation of section 18. In response, an officer of my Department contacted an officer of the OPC, in which the scope of this provision and the inherent safeguards involved in the disclosure of any information for the purpose of this section was discussed, that is, any information which may be released would be specified in detail in a public interest certificate. Further, the issue of any public interest certificate pursuant to this section is subject to the delegate forming the view that the release of information is ‘necessary in the public interest’ and also subject to section 7 of the Guidelines, which provides that the person to whom the information will be disclosed must have a genuine and legitimate interest in the information.

Following this discussion, to illustrate the level of detail of information that is specified in a public interest certificate, my Department provided the OPC with a copy of a recent public interest certificate made to allow for disclosure that is for the purpose of section 15 of the Family Assistance (Public Interest Certificate) Guidelines 2006, (a mirror provision to section 18 of the Guidelines). FaHCSIA did not receive any further comments from the Privacy Commissioner in relation to this provision.

I further note, as specified in the explanatory statement to the Guidelines, that section 18 would only be relied upon to enable a delegate to release information in the public interest where unusual or urgent circumstances have arisen. In the three years since the mirror provision in the family assistance public interest certificate guidelines have been in place, disclosures for the purposes of the mirror provision have only been used a very small number of times.

I hope the above comments satisfy the Committee’s concerns.

Yours sincerely

Jenny Macklin MP

Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs


ATTACHMENT A - PRIVACY COMMISSIONER’S COMMENTS

Proposed section 17 - establishment and operation of the Families Responsibilities Commission

This section provides that relevant information may be disclosed where it is necessary for the establishment of the Queensland Family Responsibilities Commission (QFRC), or to assist in the performance of its powers or the exercise of its functions.

The Office notes that the QFRC collects information in the form of an agency notice about individuals in a wide range of circumstances including where:

  • A child who is a dependant of the person is not enrolled in school, is not meeting school attendance requirements or is the subject of a child protection notification;
  • The person is convicted of an offence in the Magistrates Court; and
  • The person is in breach of certain tenancy obligations.

However, the Office also notes that the QFRC may only hold a conference about a person for whom it has received an agency notice if the person is a ‘community member’. From our understanding of the explanatory statement, this could mean that the QFRC could find itself in possession of a large amount of personal information about individuals who are not ‘community members’ and that this information therefore would not be necessary to the QFRC’s purpose, powers or function.

FaHCSIA may like to consider if there are ways in which the determination of a person as a ‘community member’ can be achieved before information about the individual is disclosed to the QFRC. Alternatively, FaHCSIA may like to consider including additional guidance in the Guidelines relating to the handing of records and the destruction of personal information that is not necessary to QFRC’s purpose, functions or activities.

Proposed section 18 - Other matters of relevance

This proposal allows for the disclosure of relevant information that may be necessary for the purpose of facilitating the progress or resolution of matters of relevance to a department that is administering any part of the family assistance law or the social security law. The Office would welcome a clearer explanation of this proposal in order to provide FaHCSIA with appropriate advice.

Senator Bob Brown to move on 14 October 2008:

   That, in light of the $US700 billion economic reform package to address the financial crisis in the United States of America (US) currently before the US Congress, which includes potential restrictions on chief executive officers’ ‘golden handshake’, the Senate calls on the Australian Government to investigate similar measures for termination payouts for executives.

Senator Bob Brown to move on the next day of sitting:

   That the Senate—

(a)   notes the arrest of a farmer in Victoria who opposed the Sugarloaf Pipeline, which is being forcibly constructed from the Goulburn Valley to Melbourne; and

(b)   calls on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts (Mr Garrett) to urgently reconsider his approval of this costly, environmentally-unsound and controversial project.