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 Strategic Priority 5

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Enabling a free society with balanced rights, freedoms and responsibilities
  • Implementing a data-breach notification scheme to ensure affected persons are informed when their personal information is compromised by a data breach
  • Focusing on traditional common law rights and freedoms, including through consideration of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report into common law rights and freedoms
  • Representing Australia at the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s examination of Australia’s human rights record as part of the Universal Periodic Review Process.
KPI 1: Our community impact
Measure: Australia’s regional and global position on fundamental rights (Factor 4) of the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index measuring how the rule of law is experienced by the public of countries around the world
Australia is well-placed, with a ranking of 10th of 102 countries for fundamental rights.
KPI 2: Our effectiveness in achieving objectives
Measure: Stakeholder satisfaction with the department’s effectiveness in enabling a free society
Stakeholder survey indicated 86% of respondents were satisfied.
KPI 3: Our efficiency in meeting goals
Measure:Total instances in policy advice, programme work and legislative change that are on time, within budget and meet requirements
Policy and programme work met requirements.
KPI 4: Our professionalism, skills and commitment
Measure: Stakeholder satisfaction with the professionalism, skills and commitment of staff involved in enabling a free society
Stakeholder survey indicated 86% of respondents were satisfied.


The department protects and promotes a range of rights, freedoms and responsibilities to enable all Australians to participate in and contribute to society. The high level of satisfaction achieved in the stakeholder survey reflects the department’s ability to adapt to and meet needs across a wide range of organisations and policy areas.

Implementing a data-breach notification scheme

The department worked on implementing a data-breach notification scheme to ensure affected persons are informed when their personal information is compromised by a data breach.

We conducted public consultations on exposure draft data-breach notification legislation between 3 December 2015 and 4 March 2016. The draft legislation would amend the Privacy Act 1988 to introduce a mandatory data breach notification scheme for government agencies and private sector organisations subject to the Act.

The department also undertook targeted consultation with industry and civil society stakeholders during the consultation period, and afterwards participated in two panel discussions about the proposal hosted by the national privacy professionals’ association.

The consultation received 47 public submissions and 10 confidential submissions. Most submissions supported the Bill or supported it subject to specific technical changes.

Traditional common law rights and freedoms

The department is charged with protecting and promoting human rights across government, which includes traditional common law rights and freedoms. In March 2016, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) report on Traditional rights and freedoms: Encroachments by Commonwealth laws was tabled in Parliament and launched with a speech by the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General wrote to the relevant portfolio Ministers seeking their views on the report and its recommendations. The department will continue to engage across government about the report.

On 23 February 2016, the Government referred a further inquiry to the ALRC into laws and frameworks to safeguard older Australians from abuse. This inquiry was based on advice from the department, informed by a scoping study commissioned from the Australian Institute of Family Studies on the nature and prevalence of elder abuse.

The department has also focused on respect for rights and freedoms by supporting the Government to appoint four new Commissioners to the Australian Human Rights Commission. The comprehensive merit selection processes led to the appointment of Ms Kate Jenkins as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO as Age Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Alastair McEwin as Disability Discrimination Commissioner and Mr Ed Santow as Human Rights Commissioner.

Representing Australia at the UN Human Rights Council

The department leads Australia’s engagement with various UN human rights reporting processes, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). On 9 November 2015, Australia appeared before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for its second UPR process.

The UPR protects the rule of law through international scrutiny of compliance with its human rights treaty obligations. The department led Australia’s UPR report and appearance, as well as the response to recommendations received, coordinating across the Government and all states and territories. During the appearance, 104 UN member states delivered statements and made a total of 290 recommendations to Australia. Australia lodged its response to the recommendations on 26 February 2016.

As part of the UPR appearance, Australia made a voluntary commitment to improve the way the criminal justice system treats people with cognitive disability. As part of this commitment, we are leading a cross-jurisdictional working group under the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council, to collate data and develop resources for national use on the treatment of people with cognitive disability or mental impairment who are unfit to plead or found not guilty by reason of mental impairment.

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