Victoria appoints first information commissioner

Poaches WA Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel

Sven Bluemmel will be Victoria’s first Information Commissioner, the state government announced today.

Bluemmel will oversee areas that until now were the domain of separate roles: The Freedom of Information Commissioner (a role previously filled by Michael Ison) and the Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection (David Watts).

The state government in May last year announced it would merge two roles.

“This ensures the Victorian community has a single regulator to oversee Victoria’s FOI, public sector privacy and data protection laws, and provide independent advice to government across those closely-related fields,” the government said at the time.

The government said the structure was akin to the model used in New South Wales and Queensland as well as at a federal level.

Since 2009 Bluemmel has been Western Australia’s Information Commissioner. Prior to taking on that role he was director of the state’s Public Sector Commission

Watts and Ison have been critics of the new structure.

“Research has not identified policy material or an evidence base to support” the information commissioner model, David Watts, the state’s commissioner for privacy and data protection, said in a response (PDF) to the Freedom of Information Amendment (Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner) Bill 2016.

The legislation to create OVIC received royal assent in May this year.

A Public Access Deputy Commissioner and a Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner will report to Bluemmel. Those roles are being filled on an interim basis by Sally Winton and Stephen Mumford, respectively.

“Sven Bluemmel’s extensive experience working across freedom of information, privacy and data protection, alongside his extensive leadership in information management, make him ideally suited to lead the new Office,” Victoria’s special minister of state, Gavin Jennings, said in a statement.

“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,” Bluemmel said.

The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) will begin operating from 1 September.

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