Reports by the Commissioner

50.24 The Commissioner has powers to report on the exercise of some of his or her functions. In addition to the reporting obligations following certain own motion investigations discussed above, where the Commissioner has monitored an activity or conducted an audit in the performance of the functions in ss 27, 28 and 28A of the Privacy Act, the Commissioner may report to the Minister about the activity or audit, and must report if directed to do so by the Minister.[38] The Commissioner can give a further report to the Minister where the Commissioner believes it is in the public interest to do so, and the Minister must lay such reports before each House of Parliament within 15 sitting days.[39]

50.25 There is no express power or obligation to report investigations of complaints and the Privacy Act does not envisage explicitly the Commissioner reporting directly to Parliament.[40] The ability to report on the results of audits, however, provides the Commissioner with another kind of ‘enforcement’ mechanism, as such reporting can involve a measure of publicity and sanction.

[38]Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)s 32. The relevant Minister is currently the Cabinet Secretary. Certain matters may be excluded from reports—see Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)s 33.

[39]Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) ss 30(4)–(5), 31(4)–(5), 32(2)–(3).

[40] See Ibid s 30(6). See also Parliament of Australia—Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee, The Real Big Brother: Inquiry into the Privacy Act 1988 (2005), [6.38]; Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Getting in on the Act: The Review of the Private Sector Provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 (2005), 128.