After five years in the job, Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcom Crompton has announced he will quit the position in April, issuing a statement in strong support of views expressed by former ACCC boss Allan Fels at the 25th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners last week.
"In a constantly evolving area of law, like privacy protection, the regulator has substantial discretion in its implementation and enforcement; certainly more so than in areas where the law is more settled.
"In these circumstances, the regulator also has the capacity to shape the character of the wider public debate. I strongly agree with the view espoused by Allan Fels and consider that the best approach is to bring a fresh perspective to the position regularly," Crompton said.
A spokesperson at Attorney General's department expressed initial surprise at the announcement and would not comment on whether relations between the AG and Crompton had soured following the government's hard stance that privacy issues must come second to national security.
"No, I haven't seen that," the spokesperson said.
One known irritant between the two men has been legal issues surrounding the provision of airline passenger data by Australian authorities to the US, where the use of such data is not governed by Australian law.
A spokesperson for Crompton said the commissioner will be on leave for two weeks effective immediately.