Media release - Community resources launched for Privacy Awareness Week (PDF, 21kb)

The NSW Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) has released a range of new resources to help you protect your privacy, including a video, online privacy guide and a mobile apps privacy checklist.

Information Access Laws

The information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC) oversees the following laws concerning access to government information.

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act)

The GIPA Act establishes a proactive, more open approach to gaining access to government information in New South Wales (NSW). The objects of the GIPA Act are to maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic Government that is open, accountable, fair and effective.

The GIPA Act:

  • authorises and encourages the proactive release of information by NSW public sector agencies
  • gives members of the public a legally enforceable right to access government information
  • ensures that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against releasing that information.

The GIPA Act applies to all NSW government agencies, and also extends to Ministers and their staff, local councils, state-owned corporations, courts in their non-judicial functions, and to certain public authorities, such as universities.

The guiding principle of the GIPA Act is public interest. It is generally presumed that all government agencies will disclose or release information, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so. Under the GIPA Act it is compulsory for agencies to provide information about their structure, functions and policies, and agencies are encouraged to proactively and informally release as much other information as possible.

An access application (also known as a formal application) should only need to be lodged as a last resort. Where access applications are needed, the GIPA Act outlines the process that applicants and agencies should follow, as well as the options for reviewing decisions about an access application.

Government Information (Public Access) Regulations 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Regulations)

The GIPA Regulations:

  • prescribe additional open access information that local authorities, Ministers, departments and statutory bodies must make publicly available
  • sets out the statistical information regarding formal applications that agencies must include in their annual reports
  • in the case of an access application relating to a school, extends the period in which the application must be decided if the usual 20-day period for deciding the application occurs during the school holidays
  • specify the corresponding access to information laws of other Australian jurisdictions under which information may be exempt (this is a relevant public interest consideration against disclosure under section 14)
  • declare certain bodies to be public authorities for the purpose of the GIPA Act
  • declare certain entities to be sub-agencies and parent agencies for the purpose of access applications
  • provide that records held by the Audit Office or the Ombudsman's Office that were originally created or received by another agency are taken to be held by the original agency.

Government Information (Information Commissioner) Act 2009 (GIIC Act)

The GIIC Act establishes the procedures for appointing the Information Commissioner, and sets out the Commissioner's powers and functions. It outlines the method for people to complain about the conduct of agencies when undertaking their duties under the GIPA Act, and the way in which the Information Commissioner may deal with the complaint.

The GIIC Act also enables the Information Commissioner to investigate and report on how agencies carry out their functions under the GIPA Act.

Jurisdictional Compendium

The NSW Information Commissioner has led the coordination of a Jurisdictional Compendium prepared by the Association of Information Access Commissioners. The Compendium was prepared to assist in the development of the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, particularly the Plan's draft commitment to review information access laws and to be available as a resource for each jurisdiction.

The Compendium identifies the similarities and differences of Australian legislative arrangements at a high level and does not purport to represent a detailed analysis of these arrangements.

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The IPC oversees laws concerning access to government information.

Information access resources

The Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC) has developed a range of resources designed for: 

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The IPC has developed a range of resources designed for the public and public sector agencies.

Access to government information

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) was established to provide an open and transparent process for giving the public access to information from New South Wales (NSW) public sector agencies and to encourage the proactive public release of government information. 

The Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC) provides support by helping government agencies with their responsibilities under the GIPA Act and helping the public in accessing government information.

Our goal is to ensure that the purpose of the law is achieved by:

  • promoting and educating the community and public sector agencies alike about rights and roles in accessing information
  • reviewing public sector agency decisions, investigating and resolving complaints and monitoring agency performance
  • assisting public sector agencies and the community to understand and use the law
  • providing feedback about the law and advice about developments and technology relevant to the law.

What is the GIPA Act and who does it apply to?

The GIPA Act replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW) on 1 July 2010.

The law applies to all NSW public sector agencies including:

  • Government departments
  • Ministers and their personal staff
  • NSW local councils; public offices and courts.

The law facilitates access to information by:

  • making it necessary for agencies to make certain information publicly available
  • authorising agencies to proactively release other information to the community
  • authorising agencies to release their information in response to informal access requests
  • giving the public a legally enforceable right to access government information through making a access application, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so.

What is government information?

Government information is information in a record held by an agency, on behalf of an agency by a government contractor, or by the State Records Authority.

A record can mean any document or source of information that is compiled, recorded or stored in printed or electronic form.

What is open access information?

The GIPA Act makes it necessary for agencies to freely provide the following information:

  • an information guide describing an agency’s structure and functions, how those functions affect the community, the type of information held by the agency and how the information is available
  • documents tabled in Parliament by or on behalf of the agency
  • the agency’s policy documents
  • a disclosure log of information released under formal access applications that may be of interest to the community
  • a register of contracts that an agency has with private sector organisations with a value of $150,000 and over
  • a record of the open access information that is not made public due to an overriding public interest against releasing that information

Government departments, in particular, must also supply:

  • a list of major assets, including the number and value of properties disposed of in the previous financial year
  • a guarantee of service
  • a code of conduct.

Councils, in particular, must also supply:

  • annual financial and auditors reports, management plans and various codes
  • agendas, business papers and minutes of meetings
  • information contained in certain registers
  • plans and policies
  • development applications and associated documents
  • information concerning approvals, orders and other documents.

Additionally, the GIPA Act also specifies that Ministers must disclose any media releases and details of overseas travel, but are not required to publish an agency information guide.

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The IPC provides support to government agencies with their responsibilities under the GIPA Act and helps the public in accessing government information.

Privacy

NSW public sector agencies often need to collect, store and use your personal and health information to provide you with services such as transport, health and education. They are legally required to abide by certain principles to ensure your privacy is protected.

Information Access

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) was established to provide an open and transparent process for giving the public access to information from NSW public sector agencies and to encourage the proactive release of government information.

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