Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has released a new "Advisory Opinions" Policy under which Government Ministers and public and sector agencies may seek an advisory opinion from the Commissioner on the application of the Privacy Act 1993.
He says the process is intended to promote understanding of the information privacy principles and give greater certainty to Ministers and agencies in relation to the Act's operation in particular circumstances.
The policy, which is based on section 13(1)(l) of the Privacy Act, is outlined in a document released by the Commissioner. The advisory opinion is a discretionary function and the Commissioner stresses that he does not act as a private legal advisor to an agency but in the public interest.
The policy makes it clear that all resulting opinions will be made public.
"The advisory opinion process is intended for matters of wider importance where there is dispute over the correct approach to interpreting the Privacy Act," Mr Edwards says.
"For general practical matters, my Office maintains a website with a wide range of guidance materials and operates a free inquiries line."
The policy is in a pilot phase and will be reviewed after six months.