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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 10893


Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (16:16): I am very pleased to speak on the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012. From the outset, it is important to note that our information is out there in a lot of places, reflecting the way the world has changed. People do not think twice about putting their details online when signing up to loyalty cards or to gym memberships. There are a whole range of different places you hand over your information these days.

While I think the convenience of being able to do these sorts of thing on the internet is great, we need to ensure that our privacy legislation keeps up with it. We need to ensure that people can be confident about handing over their information through these new media. That is important both for the private sector and the public sector. People in my electorate often express concern to me not only about how their information might be used by private organisations—giving it to third parties, for example—but also about how government departments might use it.

One of the key reforms in this bill is to provide for new, unified Australian privacy principles which will apply equally to the private sector and the public sector. These principles will deal with the handling of personal information, including the collection, storage, security, use, disclosure and accuracy of information. Importantly, a new principle will be introduced specifically to deal with direct marketing.

I am very pleased that the bill also provides and extends stronger protections for consumers in regard to disclosure of their information to overseas companies and organisations. While many members of the Australian public probably do not mind being exposed to direct marketing from time to time, this sharing of information is of concern to a lot of people that I speak with. I think it is very important the privacy principles keep in step with those concerns.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives

Sitting suspended from 16:19 to 16:32

Ms RISHWORTH: As I was saying before the division, it is very important that we keep in step with the expectations of the public. I think one of the other important parts of the bill, as I was saying before about direct marketing materials, is that the bill also provides for a new privacy principle which will more tightly regulate the use of personal information for direct marketing. It will give more powers to consumers to opt out of receiving direct marketing materials, companies will have to have clear and simple ways of opting out and the statement from the company must be prominent. I think that is something a lot of consumers in my electorate will welcome. I also think extending privacy protections to unsolicited information is important, as are clearer rules around data quality and data correction.

I am not going to speak on every part of this legislation, but one of the important parts of it is that it provides for more comprehensive credit reporting which will for the first time include positive information in consumers' credit reports and be supported by strong privacy protections for this information. We know that people do use credit reports—companies use credit reports, as do banks, to look at whether or not there is a risk to providing a loan or product to a consumer—but often I have had constituents frustrated by the fact that this information has a black mark against their name and is not up to date, is not correct, is not transparent, leaves them unable to get a look at it and does not have positive information. They may have had a difficulty some time ago but have paid all their bills on time for, say, the last five years, and that information is not provided. So making sure the accurate information is provided in people's credit histories is really important for companies to ensure that they make accurate decisions but is also important for individuals. It is important that these individual consumers who may get rejected for loans because of their credit rating actually be allowed to get that information, and I think this is a win-win situation that allows for responsible lending but also allows for individuals to get that information. I think that is a very important part.

The third key reform is new powers for the Australian Privacy Commissioner to handle complaints and give remedies to consumers. These new powers will include the ability to accept enforceable undertakings as well as the ability to pursue civil penalties for serious breaches of privacy. This gives the commissioner some teeth in order to pursue issues where there have been serious breaches of privacy. We know that from time to time that does happen. Now there will be an ability to use these new powers to ensure that there are ramifications when privacy is breached.

This builds on what the government has been doing in the area of privacy. I think the News of the World scandal really shone a light on how people's privacy can be breached. Of course, that was for prominent people. We need to ensure that it is not just famous people or people who are high profile who have their privacy protected but ordinary citizens as well. I think that is very, very important, and it is a very important reform. It builds on a whole range of things that we have been doing in this area. I certainly believe that we must continue to be vigilant to ensure that our privacy laws are in step with the community's views—as well as, of course, respecting the right of freedom of speech. That is obviously a very important right, but we need to ensure that privacy is maintained, especially as new technologies, new environments and new ways of marketing come to light, and that our laws and the ramifications for breaching those keep in step. I commend the bill to the House.