Pilgrim finally gets nod as Australian Information Commissioner

After being on a series of rolling temporary appointments since July last year, Timothy Pilgrim is set to take on the mantle of Australian Information Commissioner alongside his role as Australian Privacy Commissioner.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim will officially take on the role of Australian Information Commissioner from October 19, Attorney-General George Brandis said on Wednesday afternoon.

Ever since the Australian Federal Budget of 2014 was handed down, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has been in a state of limbo with regards to its future.

Initially set to be disbanded, the office struggled on without any funding set aside for it thanks to an obstinate Senate refusing to pass the legislation that would abolish it.

After its near-death experience, the office was eventually handed AU$9.3 million annually for the next four years in the 2016 Budget, although that funding will mostly be siphoned off the Australian Human Rights Commission. In addition, most of its freedom of information duties were sent to other parts of the Attorney-General's Department.

"As Acting Australian Information Commissioner, Mr Pilgrim has provided the necessary continuity to allow the Office of the Australian Information Commission to build on its significant operational improvements, particularly its streamlined freedom of information functions," Brandis said in a statement.

"Mr Pilgrim has established a strong reputation in the business community for his considered approach to regulation and understanding of business needs. Mr Pilgrim has worked internationally to help Australia deal with global privacy challenges, particularly through building closer relationships with other privacy regulators."

Brandis' predecessor and Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus pounced on the appointment, saying it was unacceptable to leave the role of Information Commissioner vacant for such a long period of time.

"Labor applauds Attorney-General George Brandis for finally accepting the need to preserve the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, two years after attempting to abolish it," Dreyfus said.

"However, Labor remains concerned that 20 months on, this government has also not seen fit to appoint a replacement to the role of Freedom of Information Commissioner. This too is a key part of our freedom of information system which has been abandoned by the government."

Last month, Pilgrim was reappointed as Australian Privacy Commissioner for 12 months, also set to begin on October 19.

Pilgrim has been in the Privacy Commissioner role since July 2010, and had previously served as deputy privacy commissioner from 1998 until 2010.

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