State, territory and Commonwealth digital ministers have agreed to press ahead with the Prime Minister’s plan for national consistent digital identity and data sharing schemes, and noted the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination certificates.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the federal government’s plan to greatly increase data sharing between public sector agencies and private organisations through new legislation would be expanded to state and territory governments.
On Friday, Ministers responsible for digital and data from each of Australia’s state and territory governments except Tasmania met with Commonwealth Employment Minister Stuart Robert, who has retained control of whole of government digital projects in his new portfolio.
Ministers “discussed development of the intergovernmental agreement to support national data sharing between governments” at the meeting. The agreement will eventually be considered by state and territory Premiers at National Cabinet.
An intergovernmental agreement paves the way for the federal government to expand its own data sharing plan to state and territory governments.
Three years in the making, the Coalition’s data sharing plan includes new legislation, the Data Transparency and Availability Act, to get around current secrecy provisions and other laws blocking data sharing by government agencies.
But the proposed laws have been criticised because of significant privacy implications, the sharing of identifiable information and the potential for consent to not always be required.
The legislation was introduced in December and immediately questioned by a group of senators about its lack of detail and privacy safeguards in the legislation. The legislation was sent to a Senate inquiry which has attracted more than 30 submissions. A report is expected by the end of the month.
State and territory ministers also agreed to a “seamless digital identity for Australians” delivered through a nationally consistent approach.
“A consistent approach to digital identity will make it easier for the Australian public to interact online across a wide range of digital services, regardless of the jurisdiction they live in or the service they are accessing,” the latest communiqué stated.
“Work is continuing between the Commonwealth, states and territories to make this a reality.”
Ministers also noted updates to the rollout of digital proof of vaccination, which can now be accessed through government apps. Ministers noted the digital proof will be an important step in the reopening of the Australian economy.
The intergovernmental data and digital Minister’s meetings began in 2018, occurring only a few times each of the first two years. But as the pandemic put pressure on service delivery last year, Ministers agreed to meet more frequently last year – nearly once a month in 2020.
Mr Robert, who began chairing the meetings in 2019, retained control of whole of government digital projects in his new portfolio through committee appointments and the move of the Digital Transformation Agency back to Prime Minister and Cabinet.
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