Questions on Notice and the privacy principles

The Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act) places an obligation on agencies and Ministers to comply with the privacy principles when collecting, storing, managing, using and disclosing personal information. The privacy principles include the National Privacy Principles (NPPs) for health agencies and the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) for all other agencies.

The privacy principles and disclosure of personal information

IPP 11 and NPP 2 provide that personal information may not be disclosed to anyone other than the individual it is about unless one of the exceptions applies.  One of the exceptions—contained in both IPP 11(1)(d) and NPP 2(1)(f)—is if the disclosure is authorised or required by law.

Questions on Notice

In Queensland, Ministers are responsible to Parliament and Parliament can require them to explain their Ministerial actions, or the actions of their departments. This is often done through Questions on Notice. The Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly1 (Standing Orders), part 4, chapter 20, sets out the rules for Questions on Notice.

Legal effect of Standing Orders

Standing Orders are subordinate legislation that bind the members of the Legislative Assembly (the Assembly), and a Minister who refuses to answer a Question on Notice or provides a deliberately misleading answer can be found in contempt of the Assembly.2

Content of and answers to Questions on Notice

There are restrictions on the content of Questions on Notice (the Question). Unless strictly necessary to render the question intelligible, and unless they can be authenticated, they must not include people’s names.3

The Standing Orders require that the answer be relevant to the Question.4 As such if it was necessary for the Question to contain names, a relevant answer may also include names or other personal information. Where the Minister’s answer to the Question requires the disclosure of personal information, the disclosure by the Minister is authorised or required by law.5

A Department will usually prepare the answer and any additional advice and provide it to the Minister, who will in turn provide the answer to the Assembly.

Disclosure to the Minister

Because the Department is not bound by the Standing Orders, it cannot rely on them to disclose personal information to the Minister. Section 38 of the IP Act, however, permits an agency to give necessary personal information to a Minister for the purposes of the Minister’s responsibilities in relation to that agency. This includes the preparation of, and briefing on background matters related to, Questions on Notice.

  • 1 Section 11 of the Parliament of Queensland Act 2001 (Qld)provides that "the Assembly may prepare and adopt standing rules and orders that appear to the Assembly best adapted to conduct proceedings in the Assembly".
  • 2 Standing Order 266(16).
  • 3 Standing Order 115(b).
  • 4 Standing Order 118(b)
  • 5 IPP 11(1)(d) and NPP 2(1)(f).

Current as at: September 19, 2019