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This statement was created on 1 July 2020.
© Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Government Solicitor 2019
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AGS is a group within the Attorney-General's Department (AGD). It is headed by the Australian Government Solicitor which is an office established by the Judiciary Act 1903 and occupied by an employee within AGD. AGS provides legal and related services primarily to Australian Government departments and agencies.
AGS and the Privacy Act
The acts done, or practices engaged in, by AGD in respect of the activities undertaken by AGS are treated as the acts and practices of an organisation for the purposes of the Privacy Act.
This means that AGS is subject to the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) in the Privacy Act which set out standards, rights and obligations for organisations in relation to handling, holding, accessing and correcting personal information.
Personal information means any information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable:
- whether the information or opinion is true or not, and
- whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not.
Kinds of personal information that AGS collects and holds, and the purpose of collection
Broadly, AGS collects personal information in relation to our:
- legal services
- contractors and suppliers.
AGS legal services
AGS collects personal information for the purpose of providing, in accordance with the provisions of the Judiciary Act, professional legal and related services (such as legal training and legal publications) to its clients across a wide range of legal matters and issues.
This personal information includes the names, addresses, contact details, dates of birth, gender, occupations, employment histories, family backgrounds and financial records (including tax file numbers and debts) of individuals who are:
- taking legal action against the Commonwealth
- the subject of legal action being taken by the Commonwealth
- third parties as an incidence of legal action being taken against, or by, the Commonwealth, or
- in an employee, commercial, business or other form of relationship with an AGS client, that relationship being the subject of, or incidental to, a legal matter in which AGS is acting for that client.
Where an obligation under a contract of service requires AGS to do so, we collect and hold some types of sensitive information (which is a subset of personal information). This may include personal information about an individual's racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, membership of a political association, religious beliefs or affiliations, philosophical beliefs, membership of a professional or trade association, membership of a trade union, sexual preferences or practices, criminal record or physical or mental health.
AGS collects personal information about its employees for the purposes of staff recruitment, performance management and professional and personal development, as well as general staff administrative functions such as payroll operations.
This personal information may include an employee's name, address, contact details, date of birth, gender, qualifications, occupation, employment history, next of kin, financial information (including tax file number and banking details), performance agreements and appraisals, conduct, salary and allowances, superannuation details, leave details, references and character checks and security clearances.
Where relevant, AGS collects and hold some types of sensitive information relating to its employees. This may include personal information about an employee's racial or ethnic origin, membership of a political association, membership of a professional association, membership of a trade union, criminal record or health information.
As AGS's acts and practices are treated as those of an organisation for the purposes of the Privacy Act, AGS is exempt from the Act in relation to its employee records. However, as a matter of policy, AGS collects, holds, uses and discloses personal information (including sensitive information) about its employees, in a manner consistent with the APPs.
AGS collects personal information about its clients in the course of providing legal services to its clients. For example, the name, position and contact details of client instructing officers are entered into AGS's legal practice management systems for the purpose of the opening, running (including billing) and closing of AGS's client legal matter files. Another example is where AGS collects certain personal information about a client agency employee for the purpose of the employee providing a witness statement in relation to a matter in which AGS is acting for the agency.
AGS also collects personal information about its clients to advise them of the latest legal developments and to promote and market AGS's legal and related services and activities to them. This personal information is usually limited to a client's name, position and work contact details.
AGS contractors and suppliers
AGS collects personal information about contractors and suppliers who are engaged by AGS (on behalf of the Commonwealth) to provide goods and services to AGS. The information relates to individual contractors and suppliers, and the employees of firms that are contracted to provide or supply goods and services to AGS. The purpose of the information is to enable AGS to select contractors and service providers that are assessed as offering the best value for money to AGS, and to effectively manage its contracts with contractors and suppliers.
This personal information may include name, address, contact details, employer, previous projects undertaken, financial background, references, contract details, payment details, security checks and performance assessments.
How AGS collects personal information
Our clients supply us with personal information to enable us to provide them with legal or related services. This information might relate to our clients' employees or to other individuals associated with the particular legal matter. Where it is reasonably practicable to do so, we collect this information directly from the employee or person concerned.
AGS requests prospective employees to provide certain personal information to AGS as part of AGS's recruitment processes. New employees provide further personal information on joining AGS which is added to during the normal course of their employment with AGS.
Contractors and suppliers provide personal information to AGS as part of AGS's procurement processes. They provide further personal information to AGS in giving effect to their contract with AGS.
Clients provide personal information to AGS as part of the normal client-lawyer relationship.
On occasions, we may need to gather personal information from other sources such as public records and third parties, for example, medical or other reports on claimants for compensation, reports from referees of prospective employees or potential contractors, Commonwealth agency websites to identify potential clients.
Depending on the circumstances, reasonable steps will be taken to ensure that the individual concerned is, or has been, made aware of:
- our identity and how to contact us
- the fact and circumstances of collection
- whether the collection is required or authorised by or under law
- the purposes of collection
- the consequences if personal information is not collected
- our usual disclosures of personal information of the kind collected by us
- whether we are likely to disclose personal information to overseas recipients, and if practicable, the countries where they are located.
We will only collect sensitive information (for example, medical information) about an individual if:
- the individual has consented and the information is reasonably necessary for one or more of AGS's functions or activities
- the collection is required or authorised by or under law
- it is unreasonable or impracticable to obtain the consent of the individual about whom the information concerns, and the collection is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to the life, health or safety of any individual, or to public health and safety
- the collection is reasonably necessary for the establishment, exercise or defence of a legal or equitable claim
- we have reason to suspect that unlawful activity, or misconduct of a serious nature, that relates to our functions or activities has been, is being, or may be engaged in, and we reasonably believe that the collection is necessary in order for us to take appropriate action
- the collection is reasonably necessary for the purposes of a confidential alternative dispute resolution process.
We collect personal information (including contact details) as part of our normal communication processes, including:
- when an individual emails an AGS employee
- when an individual telephones us
- when an individual hands us their business card.
Individuals have the option of not identifying themselves, or using a pseudonym, when dealing with AGS unless it is impractical for AGS to deal with someone who is anonymous or has used a pseudonym, or AGS is required or authorised by or under law to deal only with individuals who have identified themselves.
How AGS holds personal information
AGS uses a range of physical and electronic security measures to protect personal information from misuse and loss, and from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure. These measures include restricted physical access to our offices, security containers, firewalls, secure databases, computer-user identifiers and passwords, and accredited off-site storage facilities.
In addition to the requirements under the Privacy Act, AGS's obligations to protect personal information arise from other sources including the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, the APS Code of Conduct (s 13 of the Public Service Act 1999) and the Crimes Act 1914. AGS lawyers are subject to professional obligations arising from Commonwealth, State and Territory law. Also, all AGS employees are required to have a minimum Baseline security clearance.
The requirements of the Archives Act 1983 relating to Commonwealth records (including the disposal, alteration and destruction of such records) apply to AGS records, including personal information held by AGS.
How AGS uses and discloses personal information
We use and disclose personal information for the primary purpose for which it was collected, namely to enable us to carry out our business of providing legal and related services. We may also use and disclose personal information for reasonably expected secondary purposes directly related (for sensitive information) or related (for other personal information) to the primary purpose of collection, or for other purposes permitted under the Privacy Act.
The people or organisations with whom we might share personal information include:
- our clients (with respect to personal information we have gathered in relation to a legal matter we are undertaking for them)
- barristers and other individuals or organisations who assist us in providing legal services
- courts, tribunals and regulatory authorities
- law enforcement agencies, where appropriate
- contractors or agents who provide services to us, for example, off-site storage facilities for our files and banks who transmit payments on our behalf.
We use personal information to promote and market our legal and related services, such as legal seminars and publications, to our clients and other interested parties. We do not disclose personal information, for example mailing lists, to third parties to allow them to directly market their services and products.
AGS will not use or disclose personal information for a secondary purpose (ie a purpose other than the primary purpose for which the information was collected) unless permitted exceptions under the Privacy Act apply, including:
- the individual has consented to a secondary use or disclosure
- the individual would reasonably expect AGS to use or disclose their personal information for the secondary purpose, and that purpose is related to the primary purpose of collection, or, in the case of sensitive information, directly related to the primary purpose
- the secondary use or disclosure is required or authorised by or under law
- it is unreasonable or impracticable to obtain the consent of the individual about whom the information concerns, and the secondary use or disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to the life, health or safety of any individual, or to public health and safety
- the secondary use or disclosure is reasonably necessary for the establishment, exercise or defence of a legal or equitable claim
- we have reason to suspect that unlawful activity, or misconduct of a serious nature, that relates to our functions or activities has been, is being, or may be engaged in, and we reasonably believe that the secondary use or disclosure is necessary in order for us to take appropriate action
- the secondary use or disclosure is reasonably necessary for the purposes of a confidential alternative dispute resolution process
- we reasonably believe that the secondary use or disclosure is reasonably necessary for one or more enforcement related activities conducted by, or on behalf of, an enforcement body.
On occasions, it might be necessary for us to send personal information overseas, for example to a foreign-based legal firm with which we are collaborating on a legal matter. The specific country to which we might send personal information depends on the particular legal matter. We will not send the information outside Australia without the person's express or implied consent or otherwise in compliance with APP 8 (cross-border disclosure of personal information).
Access to personal information held by AGS
AGS provides individuals with access to personal information about them that AGS holds, subject to any applicable exceptions under the Privacy Act.
We first require the individual to verify their identity and specify the information they wish to access.
Where we refuse access to the information being sought, we provide the individual concerned with reasons for the refusal and details of our complaint mechanisms.
People are not charged for lodging a request to access personal information. However, we may charge individuals a fee to cover the reasonable administrative costs involved in providing access to their personal. The fee is determined on a case-by-case basis and the individual is informed beforehand of the likely cost.
Requests for access to personal information should, in the first instance, be directed to AGS's Governance Adviser – contact details provided at the end of this policy. AGS will respond to a request for access within a reasonable period after the request is made, generally no longer than 30 days. The response will take the form of either giving access or notifying AGS's refusal to give access.
The option of requesting access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) to personal information held by AGS is not available to individuals as documents relating to the activities of AGS are exempt from the FOI Act.
AGS employees seeking to access personal information about them held by AGS should contact their relevant AGS HR manager.
Correction of personal information held by AGS
We endeavour to ensure that personal information sought and held by AGS is accurate, up-to-date, complete, relevant and not misleading. If an individual is able to establish that information held by AGS about them is not correct, we will take reasonable steps to amend it.
If we disagree with the individual's view about the correctness of the information, we will provide reasons for our refusal to amend the information and, where requested, take reasonable steps to record a statement on our files that they have a contrary view.
Visiting AGS's website
When an individual looks at AGS's website, AGS's server makes a record of their visit and logs the following information:
- their server address
- their top level domain name (for example .com, .gov, .au, .uk)
- the date and time of the visit to the site
- the pages accessed and documents downloaded
- the previous site they visited
- the type of browser used.
This information is collected to facilitate website and system administration, including monitoring to prevent security breaches, and to facilitate enhancement of the website.
AGS does not attempt to identify users or their browsing activities except in the unlikely event of a criminal investigation, for example if a law enforcement agency has issued a warrant to inspect our server's logs.
External sites that are linked to or from the AGS website are not under our control and people are advised to view their privacy statements separately.
If an individual wishes to complain about the way AGS handles their personal information, they should contact AGS Corporate Adviser – see below. AGS will endeavour to respond within 30 days of receiving the complaint.
Under the Privacy Act, the Information Commissioner has the power to investigate complaints, or acts or practices that may be a breach of privacy even if there is no complaint. If an individual has made a complaint to AGS about an AGS practice which they think amounts to an arbitrary or unreasonable interference with their privacy and they do not believe that the matter has been resolved satisfactorily, they should write to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), preferably using the online Privacy Complaint form. Further information about making a privacy complaint to the OAIC is at Making a privacy complaint - OAIC.
Individuals are able to make a complaint directly to the OAIC rather than to AGS. In most cases, however, it is likely that the OAIC would refer the individual to AGS, in the first instance, to see if their complaint can be resolved without requiring the involvement of the Office.
To find out more about how AGS manages personal information, contact:
AGS Corporate Adviser
Australian Government Solicitor
T: 02 6253 7000
For more general information on the Privacy Act and the APPs:
- visit the website the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – OAIC, or
- contact the OAIC on 1300 363 992 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As necessary AGS will, from time to time, review this policy and may amend it at any time. Any amendments will be notified by posting an updated version on AGS's website at http://www.ags.gov.au.
AGS is a group within the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD). AGD is an agency for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). However, by virtue of s 7(2) and Schedule 2, Part II, Division 1 of the FOI Act, AGD is exempt from the FOI Act in relation to documents in respect of activities undertaken by the Australian Government Solicitor. Further information about the FOI Act is available at https://www.ag.gov.au/rights-and-protections/freedom-information.
While AGS has exercised due care in ensuring the accuracy of the material contained on this website, the information on the site is made available on the understanding that AGS is not engaged in rendering professional advice here. The website may not cover all the information available on a particular issue.
Some material on this site may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AGS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment to any particular course of action.
Before relying on the material contained on the website, users should obtain appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances to evaluate the material's accuracy, currency, completeness and relevance for their purposes.
Links provided to other websites are provided for the user's convenience and do not constitute endorsement of the information at those sites. AGS accepts no responsibility for material contained in any website that is linked to this site.
Contact us at email@example.com should you have any questions or issues about the above information.
The email addresses published on this page are provided for the benefit of our clients and those wishing to contact AGS on legitimate business. Accordingly, any unsolicited commercial electronic messages we receive at any of the published email addresses may be referred to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for prosecution.