Victoria appoints its first information commissioner

Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner will be active from Friday.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Australian state of Victoria has announced the appointment of Sven Bluemmel as its inaugural information commissioner.

In his new role, Bluemmel will oversee the state's data protection laws, freedom of information regime, and the privacy of its departments and agencies.

Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings said in a statement that the information commissioner would also provide advice and improve how Victoria manages its data.

Prior to his appointment, Bluemmel had been Western Australia's information commissioner, and has held various positions in the WA and Commonwealth public service.

"It is a great privilege to be undertaking this role -- the government's collection, use, and disclosure of information has very real impacts on the lives of each one of us," Bluemmel said.

"The creation of the new commissioner is an excellent opportunity to bring together freedom of information, privacy, and data protection under a single regulator and I am looking forward to leading the new office."

The office itself will be active from September 1, while Bluemmel will take on his position from September 25.

On Friday, Victoria launched its 32-point, five-year Cyber Security Strategy. The document said the state will take a whole-of-government approach to responding to threats against infrastructure, as well as stating the cybersecurity capability across the public sector needs to be improved to become consistent, less fragmented, based on industry practice, and appropriate to the risk profile of each organisation.

"The threat environment we face is increasing at all levels of government and against every system we operate," the strategy explains. "The time for an agency-by-agency (only) approach has passed. We need to address these risks strategically, and where it makes sense, holistically.

"The opportunity for the government as a whole is to build and sustain strong cybersecurity capabilities across all agencies."

The approach taken by Victoria is at odds to that taken by the Commonwealth government, which is leaving departments responsible for their own cybersecurity.

In November, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Dan Tehan said a centralised approach to cybersecurity is dangerous, and it is preferable for departments to take care of themselves instead.

My view is we want each individual department and agency to take responsibility themselves, and the best way we can do that is just remind them of the need for them to take this issue incredibly seriously," Tehan said at the time.

"What we want to develop is a culture with all departments and agencies within government that they have the mechanisms in place to make sure they are as cyber-secure as they possibly can be, and if there is capability shortfalls, that they reach out to see how they can get them addressed by other agencies who can help in this regard."

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