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Dan Andrews’ Secret Agency

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‘Insights Victoria’ is a big brother style data agency that was set up in August 2020 as part of the government’s response to Covid. It reports to Daniel Andrews’ private office as the ‘single source of truth’ for public servants. It monitors everything from social media sentiment, housing stress level, health, and mental health, how people spend their money, and credit card transactions.

In the recent budget documents, $4.4m has been allocated to this program.

The data provided is curated in real-time and updated every morning. The information is given to senior public servants and the Premier’s personal staff. The senior staff includes Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp, and the Premier’s private political staff. They have access to all data that is sensitive and not for third-party or public release as it is ‘commercial in confidence. Other public servants have access only to data that is publicly available.

Those for granted access to the system can download and export data from any map, chart, or document at the click of a button.

In September 2020, the Mission Facilitation Office has a document outlining the following: “The system includes ‘behaviour and sentiments’ sections which cover social media sentiments and behaviour ‘attitude surveys’ in relation to Covid restrictions. This system could continue as an ‘enduring platform’ that would ‘evolve to support cross-portfolio decision making beyond Covid-19.’  Insights Victoria was designed to meet short-term Covid data needs but could be a long-term platform for providing real-time whole of Victorian Government data, analytics, and insights.”

“Insights Victoria can reduce the time and effort required to quickly understand the ‘state of the state’ across all portfolios.”

Opposition Treasury spokesperson David Davis was deeply disturbed that the Premier’s political staff had access to this level of information. If it wasn’t for a fight for the Freedom of Information (FOI), this would have been kept secret.

A Government spokesperson said that Insights Victoria “purchases anonymised data sets off private sector partners to provide insights to the government. The data is not market sensitive and is anonymised.”

The use of anonymised data purchased from financial institutions had been used until late 2021, to understand the physical movement across the state at a local government area level.

This has come about after Victorian Information Commissioner, Sven Bluemmel, ordered the Department of Premier and Cabinet to release in full, all documents related to surveys of Victoria by QDOS Research, the Premier’s $2m political strategist.

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