Digital developments from Canberra 21

This week we saw a teaser for next week’s action-packed robodebt royal commission hearings, an audit of the telehealth expansion, and more.

Here are the digital developments from Canberra I’ve noticed since the previous edition on 13 January.

  • The Robodebt Royal Commission continues. “How departments and ministers use media, decisions from the now-abolished Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and how the government reckoned with growing criticism of robodebt are all on the table in the upcoming session of the royal commission,” writes The Mandarin. As they put it, the royal commission’s third set of public hearings will also examine “how the legality of the scheme was defended despite advice to the contrary.” Grab your popcorn. It starts Monday.
  • Some fun from the Australian National Audit Office. “The Department of Health and Aged Care (Health) expanded telehealth to meet objectives, however there were shortfalls in governance, risk management and evaluation,” they report. “Health did not adequately monitor or evaluate the expansion.”
  • Fujitsu will get another $37.6 million to run the Identity Matching Services (IDMS), which is operated by the Department of Home Affairs. This is the system that allows the matching of core identity documents such as driver licences and passports. Legislation to extend this system to biometrics was effectively killed in 2019 when the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security took the unusual step of recommending, in a bipartisan decision, that the whole bill be thrown out and redrafted due to privacy concerns. But the department has been working on a draft and maybe it’ll be back.
  • The Australian Communications and Media Authority is “seeking views on how to measure media diversity across the Australian news market”. There’s a consultation paper, and submissions close on 17 March.
  • The government has set up an advisory group to work towards closing the digital inclusion gap for First Nations Australians by 2026.

Please let me know if I’ve missed anything, or if there’s any specific items you’d like me to follow.

Parliament is scheduled (PDF) to return on Monday 6 February 2023, but I’ll almost certainly have one of these summaries next week.

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