The Australian government has appointed standalone FOI and Privacy Commissioners, returning the nation’s privacy office to its original structure for the first time in eight years.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Monday announced that NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd had been appointed as the new Freedom of Information Commissioner, while Ada Lovelace Institute director Carly Kind will serve as the Privacy Commissioner.
Angelene Falk, who has served as both the Information and Privacy Commissioner since 2018, and will continue in the former role until the end of her term in August next year, when a new Information Commissioner will be appointed.
Falk announced earlier this year that she will not be seeking a third term in the role.
The appointments fulfil an election pledge by Labor to restore the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) to the three Commissioner model as originally intended when the body was launched in 2010.
“This is a significant and welcome step for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the Australian community as we move to a three-Commissioner model at a time when access to information and the protection of privacy has never been more important,” Falk said in a statement.
“The new Commissioners will bring considerable expertise to promote and uphold privacy and information access rights.
“It is exciting to consider how the background and experience of the new commissioners will continue to our purpose, and meet the regulatory challenges of the future.”
The former Abbott Coalition government made significant funding cuts to the OAIC in 2015, which led to the scrapping of the standalone commissioner roles.
Tydd will serve as FOI Commissioner from mid-February on a five-year term. She is the current Information Commissioner and CEO of the NSW Information and Privacy Commissioner, and has served in that role for a decade.
Before this, Tydd was the executive director of the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing in the state Department of Communities.
Tydd will replace Toni Pirani, who has been acting FOI Commissioner since Leo Hardiman abruptly resigned from the role in March.
Hardiman was less than 12 months into a five-year term when he quit, and later claimed that his efforts to address the backlog in FOI cases was frustrated by leadership at the OAIC.
Hardiman also told a Senate inquiry he was routinely ignored within the agency, and complained that the “very limited” FOI staff were being diverted elsewhere.
Falk denied these claims and labelled them “disturbing”.
Kind is an expert in data protection, AI policy, practice and governance, privacy and tech law and policy.
She will serve as the Privacy Commissioner from late February, also on a five-year term.
Kind was the inaugural director of the London-based Ada Lovelace Institute, and was previously was an independent consultant to a number of human rights organisations, trusts and foundations, international organisations and the private sector.
The federal government opened applications for the Privacy Commissioner role in May, in the wake of a number of significant data breaches and hacks.
The role will deal specifically with data security threats, and the rapidly increasing volumes of privacy issues facing Australian businesses and individuals.
The position will be particularly important next year, with the federal government expected to legislate sweeping reforms to the Privacy Act.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this period of change and advancement of privacy in Australia, especially as rapid technological advancements in data, AI and tech will continue to raise new challenges and opportunities,” Kind said on X.