Open Data

The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM ( 18:25 ): 

I welcome the latest work of the Productivity Commission. Earlier this month the Federal Treasurer released the commission report entitled "Data Availability and Use". It is a welcome report in an area that has the promise to transform government service delivery and the way that citizens interact with private companies. It highlights an area in which all governments around Australia have taken an interest, but none has made enough progress. The report is clear. It states, "Marginal changes to existing structures in legislation will not suffice." When it is the Productivity Commission calling for a revolution it is best to pay attention. The report goes on to say:

Recommended reforms are aimed at moving from a system based on risk aversion and avoidance, to one based on transparency and confidence in data processes, treating data as an asset and not a threat.

The report details IBM's assessment from last year that 90 per cent of the world's information has been generated in the past two years. It is a dramatic insight into the exponential increase in data around us. I have been a supporter of this agenda in the past. I had the pleasure of working as the deputy chief of staff to the first Premier of New South Wales to take to Twitter. I understand that those early tweets have made their way to the State's archives. They form an early electronic historical document in the social media era. The establishment of the Bureau of Health Information and the reform of freedom of information laws with the creation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act were also measures that were able to be implemented. Each were steps along the road to this agenda of making government more transparent, making information more accessible and making data more useful.

The commission highlights the area of health as a case study. It details the case of Australian health researchers in the important area of vaccine assessment as they wait eight years for national and State approval for access to combine datasets. Instead, the Australian researchers have ended up using United Kingdom data. While we are at the moment behind the pace, we should take heart from our record as a country of being fast and early adopters. For example, in health, at 13 per cent of the population, Australia has the second highest take-up of fitness band devices in the world.

This report has two key recommendations: calling for citizens to have a new comprehensive right to the use of their digital data and the establishment of a national data custodian with a supporting national framework. The benefits might be substantial. Giving citizens a right to their own data gives them an ability to negotiate with the companies or government agencies that hold that data. They can demand a better deal. It is a new frontier for the competition agenda. For the public sector this agenda offers to transform how we deliver government services.

I support three steps being taken in New South Wales. Each of these would build on the early work done by both sides of politics in this area in New South Wales. First, New South Wales should develop its own comprehensive right to the use of our digital data for our citizens.

Secondly, we should immediately establish a New South Wales data custodian to accelerate the implementation of this agenda. Its mission would be to increase access to data and the use of data analytics in New South Wales. Thirdly, we should act immediately to investigate the areas where the report indicates the greatest early gains could be made from aggregating data across the States and Territories—health, education, social welfare, child support and aged care. The report is clear that consumers must be at the centre of this agenda. It states:

Governments that ignore potential gains through consumer data rights will make the task of garnering social licence needed for other data reforms more difficult.

The report warns against dropping this aspect of the agenda. I support that view. I also support the goals of giving customers control of their data and transforming government service delivery. I thank the Productivity Commission for its work and I look forward to New South Wales taking the lead on this agenda.

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