Victorian Data Sharing Bill 2017

Ms Hutchins — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I am not sure that the member has referred to any clauses in the bill or has referred to the bill. The bill is about the future agency, and he has actually not even referred to that. He is now referring to question time. I ask you to bring him back to the bill.

Mr WATT (Burwood) (14:20:51) — I rise to speak on the Victorian Data Sharing Bill 2017. I make the point that I have been listening to the debate and listening to members talking about the integrity of data and the importance of data. For me it is not just a matter of how we collect the data; it is also how we use the data. One of the points that was made by the member for Brunswick was in regard to the misuse of the data. I very much agree with that comment around the misuse of data. When a person takes two different datasets and tries to compare them without actually telling people that they are comparing two different datasets, and then they use those two datasets to actually make policy announcements, then members should be noting the fact that they are talking about different sets of data. So if we have two different government authorities carrying out similar functions in different areas and we are to take data from one and compare that with data from the other but not acknowledge the fact that they are different sets of data, then we might actually be accused of lying. Now, I am not saying that anybody is lying. I am just saying that sometimes people misuse data.

I have been in this chamber for nearly seven years, and the number of times I have seen the misuse of data is unbelievable. We heard during question time today the misuse of data. I think that what we need to do is make sure that when we deal with —

Ms Previous DocumentHutchinsNext Document — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I am not sure that the member has referred to any clauses in the bill or has referred to the bill. The bill is about the future agency, and he has actually not even referred to that. He is now referring to question time. I ask you to bring him back to the bill.

Mr WATT — On the point of order, Acting Speaker, I started my contribution by referring to another member’s contribution. I am directly referring to the comment that was made by the member for Brunswick about the misuse of data, and if making commentary on another member’s contribution during this debate is not a debate, then what is a debate?

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Graley) — Thank you for your point of order. We have had a wideranging debate, but I would caution the member for Burwood to stick to the bill.

Mr WATT — The Victorian Data Sharing Bill 2017 is about data. It is in the title — data. I have been listening to the debate, and members opposite have been talking about the use of data. This is about the use of data. It is also about the fact that when we make policy decisions, we use the data that we have. We need to make sure that we use the data properly. It is not just about the gathering of data or who is holding the data; it is about the integrity of the data and the use of that data. If a particular minister were to stand in this place or put out a media release and talk about the fact that one particular authority is not as good as another particular authority and they used two different datasets that did not correlate, then they might actually be accused of lying. Now, I am not saying anybody has lied; I am just saying that there is the opportunity for that when people do not use data properly.

I have seen in this place members over the last three years use multiple datasets which have been completely wrong, and sometimes I hear members using figures which are just completely and utterly made up. When we stand in this place and talk about data and about numbers, we should actually know what we are talking about, rather than just making this stuff up. You cannot turn around and say that the Metropolitan Fire Brigade is much better than the Country Fire Authority if you do not have the right data, and if you are comparing the dataset of call-outs to fires of one particular —

Ms Ward — Acting Speaker, I would like to raise a point of order. The member opposite has referred to making things up, and I would ask him to resist actually doing that in his own speech and to stick to data, facts and figures — not go on a wide, rambling debate, but actually stick to the bill, stick to facts and figures and not himself make things up.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Graley) — Member for Burwood, please try to stick to the bill.

Mr WATT — Thank you very much. Referring to both the member for Ivanhoe and the member for Brunswick when they talked about the use of data and misuse of data, I think that is very important. Let us say we were to get data on a dictaphone and we were to take it off the dictaphone and disseminate that and then we were to smash that source. We need to be very careful about the use of data, but the member for Brunswick actually also talked about the destruction of data. I think it is very important that when the data we are looking at does not actually belong to us we probably should not misuse it and we probably should not destroy it because that might actually be seen as property damage. That might actually be a crime. I think we need to make sure when we do use data in this place that we actually —

Ms Ward — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt you with another point of order and I am sorry to take up your time, but I really would offer counsel to the member opposite to actually articulate something and stick to the point, as opposed to yet again ramble with these impossible metaphors which very few people will actually understand.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Graley) — Relevance, I think we are speaking about here. I would suggest to the member for Burwood that he is speaking in very broad terms, and he might like to narrow his attention down to specific parts of the bill.

Mr WATT — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the standing orders and Rulings from the Chairactually preclude me from going through the bill clause by clause. If you read the standing orders or Rulings from the Chair, it actually says that I am not allowed to stand here and go, ‘Clause 1, clause 2, clause 3’. Actually that is not within the standing orders or Rulings from the Chair, so I would say that your ruling is wrong and that I actually do have the capacity to stand here and say, ‘The member for Brunswick said this, the member for Ivanhoe said that’, and I have the capacity during the debate to actually debate what other members have said.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Graley) — Thank you, member for Burwood. Given that we have only got 3 minutes and 15 seconds left, I would suggest that you speak on the bill.

Mr WATT — Thank you very much. I am happy to speak on the bill, but I would like to concentrate my contribution on not necessarily disputing but agreeing with commentary that was made by other members of Parliament. Particularly I want to concentrate on the contribution from the member for Brunswick. The member for Brunswick specifically in her contribution talked about the misuse of data, and I know that she talked about the misuse of data because I actually wrote it down: ‘misuse of data’.

When members come into this place, put out press releases and base government policy on data — let us say as a minister you might want to destroy a particular government authority and you might want to trash the reputation of volunteers in a particular authority — what they might do is use made-up data. They might use data that maybe was not made up but certainly does not correlate with other data that they are comparing; that is a very clear misuse of data. Members of Parliament, when they come in here, should actually tell the truth, and when they use data in an incorrect way, that is tantamount to lying. What we should not do is come into this place and make stuff up; what we should actually do is use the data. So if you look at the data —

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr WATT — We found out today during question time that the Minister for Emergency Services was completely misusing data. Some might say that he is a liar. Some might say that — I would not, because that would be unparliamentary — but what others might say is that he misled the Parliament, he misled Victoria —

Mr Battin — He is a liar!

Mr WATT — So the member for Gembrook would say he is a liar. The member for Gembrook might say that. I am not saying that he did say that, but the member for Gembrook might have said that during question time and he might have been right, because when you misuse data and when you deliberately misuse data to try to get your point across some might consider that to be a lie.

I would just say to members opposite that when you come up with facts and figures, maybe you should make sure that they are actually facts — not just made-up stuff, not just pretend and not just comparing two different datasets. You have got to make sure that you compare the datasets that have the same inputs because otherwise what we are doing is lying, and what we need to make sure is that as members of Parliament we do not actually lie to the public. What we should not do is misuse data —

Mr Richardson interjected.

Mr WATT — As I said, those opposite are the ones talking about misusing data, and I would say maybe we should not take data on a dictaphone, smash that after disseminating the data and then pretend that we did not do it or pretend that it is okay. It is not okay. Do not misuse data.

Debate resumed from 1 November; motion of Ms KAIROUZ (Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation).

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (10:13:06) — I rise to speak on the Victorian Data Sharing Bill 2017, and it is my pleasure to speak on this bill as a former statistician who was obsessed with data in my early years. I do not think that that obsession has gone away, quite frankly; I love reading anything that I can get my hands on that gives us an insight into the changes to our society.

Of course in this day and age the ability to collect and analyse data is all around us. We cannot reverse the tide of data digitalisation, and nor do we want to in most circumstances. On the one hand digital data presents us with unprecedented opportunities to analyse our society, our economy and our environment to really get to the heart of how people live their lives, understand their worries and their aspirations and then determine how government can most effectively help Victorians through this analysis.

On the other hand, we constantly need to adapt our laws to suit the technological advancements that we have in our times, and in this case that means managing the relevant privacy concerns and ensuring that Victorians’ data does not fall into the wrong hands or get used inappropriately, and that is what this bill is about. It is about positioning the state government to fully utilise public data for all of those positive purposes while safeguarding Victorians against privacy violations and potential misuse of this sort of data. To achieve this the bill establishes a statutory position of Victorian chief data officer, known as a CDO — I am not sure that we actually need more acronyms, but, yes, a CDO — and grants the CDO the relevant functions and powers.

The Victorian chief data officer will be based with the new Victorian Centre for Data Insights, so in turn this bill will promote the sharing of data and the use of public sector data as a public resource that supports government policymaking, service planning and design. It will remove the barriers impeding the sharing of identifiable data with the chief data officer or data analysis bodies so as to facilitate the sharing of data across the public sector. With the growth that Victoria is facing, this could not come at a more important time.

The bill also provides protections in connection with data sharing by specifying the purposes of data sharing and the circumstances in which sharing of identifiable data is permitted. It ensures that the data that is handled under this bill is protected from unauthorised access, use or disclosure.

The bill gives legal authority for departments and agencies to share identifiable data for integration and analytic purposes with the Centre for Data Insights across government. Currently Victorian agencies are unclear about their abilities to share data with each other and certainly in what circumstances. That has led to a siloing of data across our government, so strong additional privacy safeguards have been included, and where data must be de-identified before analytical work can take place, this bill provides for that protection.

We know that collecting and analysing public data can do so much to improve public policymaking and service delivery and design right across government. Indeed this Andrews Labor government and Victorian government departments always seek out the very best data and analytics on which to base policy directions and decisions. The Victorian people expect us to do it better.

By creating a clear legal framework to enable government data to be shared for this purpose, we will continue to improve on the quality of public policy that comes from this place so we can better respond to the changing social and economic factors which affect people’s lives across the state. From roads and traffic to education, health, business, employment, infrastructure and the environment, there are enormous opportunities for improving the flow of data and information. Therefore policy outcomes can be reached in a quicker time frame with more accuracy underpinning them in these important areas.

You only have to look at the former federal Labor government’s website and the creation of the My School initiative to see how data sharing improves transparency and how transparency in turn improves outcomes. Parents, educators and the community can now get a clearer view about literacy and numeracy scores and how they change over time across various age groups within the school community, make fairer comparisons when choosing schools that suit a particular child, and support and drive improvements in schools across the country.

Likewise, in my previous role as Minister for Local Government, we were able to launch the Know Your Council website, which improves transparency and accountability for the local government sector. In the case of this information sharing, we were able to provide in the public domain information around planning permits and their timing and the financial performance of councils, roads and governance. Now ratepayers have available online more information about their local councils than they have ever had before. Just after its first year of operation, we are actually seeing improvements in a 12-month period that is absolutely mappable. We are seeing improvements in waste services, including the collection and reduction of numbers of missed bins, which can be easily accessed by any computer or iPad by any resident out there. We are also seeing success with more waste being diverted from landfill into recycling. That is a key measurement that is quite often looked at by ratepayers through this data.

And of course now, as the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, I am looking forward to implementing policies which can better protect victims of family violence by better sharing of information across government. But it is in this area of government, too, where privacy is absolutely paramount. This bill includes appropriate measures to ensure that women and victims of violence can place their upmost trust in the government services they engage with and can do so without fear that the sharing of their information may increase any dangers that they may face. Victorians want us to use every tool at our disposal to deal with the big issues, improve people’s lives and keep people safe. There is absolutely a fundamental right to expect that we will always get every piece of information protected and used to make the best decisions on a daily basis.

Both New South Wales and South Australia have already got similar systems in place, and I know in drafting this bill that the Special Minister of State drew on the lessons and experiences of those other states to make sure that we have some of the best practice in Australia in this measure. Understandably there might be some concerns in the community around privacy and the use of public data, but I am confident through the extensive public consultation that was undertaken in drafting this bill that we do have the balance right. The Andrews government is absolutely committed to increasing the use of data to deliver better services across Victoria. By enabling data to be shared and used across government, we can generate really valuable insights into what works, what does not and why, and make the best informed policy decisions that can lead us to tailor services that Victorians need and expect. For that reason I commend the bill to the house.