Issues Paper on serious invasions of privacy released.

September 23, 2011 |

The Government’s long expected discussion paper on a serious invasion of privacy has been released.

It is found at

The press release provides:

Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information Brendan O’Connor today released an Issues Paper discussing the Australian Law Reform Commission’s proposal for legislation to allow Australians to take civil legal action if their privacy has been seriously invaded.

The ALRC recommended introducing a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy following its 28-month investigation of Australia’s privacy laws. The New South Wales and Victorian Law Reform Commissions have since made similar proposals.

The ALRC proposal would allow individuals to seek a remedy from a court where their private life has been seriously invaded in a way that ordinary Australians would consider to be highly offensive.

Currently, where an individual believes that their personal information has been misused, they can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner, who can ask but not compel businesses to take action to rectify the breach.

However, Australian laws do not clearly allow a person to take action against a person or entity that seriously violates their privacy. This process will consider whether the law should be clearer.

“Rapid advances in technology have led to profound changes to the ways in which people store personal information, and how they share that information with family, friends, organisations and governments. We need to make sure that our privacy laws and protections are keeping pace with the changes,” Mr O’Connor said.

“This Government believes in people’s right to privacy, but not at the expense of freedom of expression and the freedom of the media to seek out and disseminate information of public concern.

“If there were to be any changes to our laws, they would have to strike a balance between these principles.”

The Paper discusses:

•             whether there is a need for a statutory civil action for redressing serious invasions of privacy; and

•             if so, possible elements of a cause of action, and the defences and remedies that could be made available as part of further protections.

The statutory cause of action was one of 295 changes to Australian privacy law recommended by the ALRC in November 2008. The Gillard Government has already responded to 197 of the recommendations.

“I will continue to discuss this major reform with interested parties, and I invite members of the public and other stakeholders to make a submission on these important issues,” Mr O’Connor said.

The consultation period will extend for six weeks.  Submissions close on Friday, 4 November 2011.


Let the discussion begin.


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