Wednesday, 01 August 2018 21:55

Insurance Council raises concerns over government data-sharing legislation

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Insurance Council raises concerns over government data-sharing legislation Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Insurance Council of Australia has called for greater data availability in response to concerns it has with the Australian Government’s proposed government data sharing and release legislation.

In an issues paper released on Wednesday, the lobby group said it was concerned that the proposed legislation would not substantially increase access to government data by industry or the community, and specifically called for data to be made available in areas such as:

  • Flood data
  • National high-resolution elevation/terrain data
  • Historical weather data
  • Building attribute data
  • Building standards and zoning

In a submisssion to the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet, the ICA says as a major user of government-held data, the general insurance industry is supportive of a more streamlined approach to its access.

The industry says it relies heavily on access to a broad range of data to identify, measure and price risk for providing insurance cover to individual consumers and businesses.  

Some of this data is obtained and held by a range of government entities and the ICA has told the government that foundational data, such as asset location, population and topography, and hazard-specific data, such as bushfire and flood mapping, are critical data that the industry relies on to ensure it assesses risk accurately.

In addition to these datasets, the ICA's submission to the Productivity Commission’s review into data access and use also identified data on building standards and mental health as areas where improved access would be beneficial.   

According to the ICA, increased accessibility to government-held data would improve understanding, not just by insurers but also households, of significant risks faced by the community.

And the ICA maintains that access to data could also drive innovation and help the industry to design products targeted at meeting individual consumer needs.   

It says it supports a proposed national legislative framework which would streamline access to government-held data.  

“We note that the Productivity Commission had proposed a new Data Sharing and Release Act to govern the collection, storage and use of data in the public and private sectors, which is broader than the focus on access to government held data in the Issues Paper," the organisation said.  

“We concur with the Productivity Commission on the importance of a legislative framework to govern not just access arrangements, but also the collection and storage of data. 

The Council says that it supports a nationally consistent legislative framework, but suggests that the legislation would enable data sharing for specific purposes only, including to:

  • To inform government policy making;
  • To support the efficient delivery of government services or government operations;
  • To assist in the implementation and assessment of government policy; and
  • For research and development with clear and direct public benefits.

“However, if the aim as stated in the Issues Paper is to increase social and economic outcomes for Australians, then the proposed purpose test appears to be too narrow,” the Council says.

“Certainly, there would be limited opportunities for industry to be able to access government-held data under this test.

“The Insurance Council suggests a more principles-based criteria for accessing government-held data. The criteria suggested by the Productivity Commission for assessing options to improve data availability and use may be instructive in this regard.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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