Federal Government Response to the ALRC report on Privacy

October 16, 2009 |

Yesterday the Federal Government released its “first stage reponse” to the ALRC report on Privacy.  Senator Ludwig, Special Minister of State, in his speech Privacy – the way ahead, said the Government would essentially rewrite the Privacy Act.  Three cheers for that.  In particular the reforms will go to:

  • having a Single Set of Privacy Principles. 
  • Enhance the Privacy Commissioners Powers and functions.  And about time.  The role and actiivity Privacy Commissioner has been a disappointment.  But only part of that is due to the lack of powers.  Culturally there needs to be a more assertive role taken.  Unfortunately even in the revised form the lack of sanctioning power or ability to bring a civil claim (ala ACCC) will limit its effectiveness. 
  • implementation of a three tiered scheme for privacy codes.
  • expanding the credit reporting.  This will be very signficant.  In the Senators words:

In order to allow credit providers to undertake a more robust assessment of an individual’s credit risk, the Government will make changes which allow five positive datasets to be included on an individual’s credit report.  One of these will be repayment history, but the Government recognises that this information must be used responsibly, so it won’t be made available until the Government’s new responsible lending obligations are in place under the National Consumer Credit Protection Bill 2009

  • Changes to health records privacy to allow for transfer of health records or access if the premises where they are located closes.
  • Protections for cross border data flows with enforceable rights by the individual;

What the Government has shied away from is whether it will agree to a statutory right of privacy.  We will have to wait until next year.

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