Budget 2016: OAIC escapes axe

Government backs down on changes to privacy and FOI watchdog

The government has backed down on its attempt to axe the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

The Coalition government in the its 2014-15 budget announced the OAIC would be disbanded, with a new organisation — Office of the Privacy Commissioner — to take on its privacy functions and Freedom of Information review functions moved to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

The government was unable to push the measure through the Senate, however, and in the 2015-16 budget provided transitional funding for the OAIC of $1.7 million.

(The Freedom of Information Amendment (New Arrangements) Bill 2014 was stalled in the Senate after its introduction in the Senate in October 2014 and lapsed when parliament was prorogued.)

Today the government announced it had backed away from the proposed changes, with the OAIC earmarked to receive $37 million over four years.

The government said its FOI funding was on the basis of a streamlined approach to reviews by the OAIC, which the agency announced in an operational update in May 2015 and included early finalisation of some matters by allowing an applicant to apply directly to the AAT.

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