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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 10895


Mr SIDEBOTTOM (Braddon—Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (16:37): Good afternoon, colleagues. It gives me great pleasure to represent the Attorney-General, the Hon. Nicola Roxon, in discussing and summing up the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012. The Attorney-General would like to thank honourable members for their contribution to this important debate, particularly the members for Canberra, Parramatta, Kingston, Flinders and Stirling. She would also like to thank the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs for its advisory report and its detailed work in considering the bill.

The committee has recommended that the House pass this bill. It has also recommended that comprehensive educational material on the new privacy protections be made available. The House committee has asked that a number of issues, such as the Australia link issue, be reviewed 12 months after commencement. Today the government can commit to fulfilling these recommendations. The government may make further amendments in the Senate in response to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee's report.

It was Labor that introduced the Privacy Act in 1988, and once again Labor is reforming privacy law. This bill implements more than half of the Australian Law Reform Commission's 295 recommendations. It has been consulted on extensively, with the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee considering exposure draft legislation in mid 2010 and inquiries occurring in the relevant committees of both the House and the Senate this year.

The bill protects consumers' privacy, particularly in this fast-changing, global, digital and internet accessible world. For example, it puts extra obligations on big companies which send personal information overseas. The bill makes it easier for consumers to opt out of receiving unwanted direct-marketing material. Companies will also have to develop detailed privacy policies which are clear and easily accessible to consumers.

Stricter rules will apply to sensitive information, including health, DNA and biometric data, and credit-reporting agencies will be banned from collecting data about children. Consumers will have a right to access and correct their credit reports, and comprehensive credit reforms will enhance responsible lending obligations, reduce the cost of credit and lower default rates.

The bill gives the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner the power to get an enforceable outcome—for example, an apology, a retraction, a take-down notice or, indeed, compensation from a court. The commissioner will be able to direct companies to complete a privacy impact assessment, encourage parties to use conciliation to resolve disputes, and apply to the courts for a civil penalty order. New civil penalties range from $2,200 for an individual through to $1.1 million for a company. For serious and repeated breaches of privacy, companies may be liable for more than $1 million.

The Gillard Labor government—this government—has acted to protect privacy in an increasingly online and digital world, which a number of the members, including the member for Kingston, have pointed out. Once again, it is the Labor Party which is looking after families and individuals as they apply for a loan or credit card online, buy footy tickets on their iPhones and pay the weekly bills online. Labor is making sure that families and individuals can get a practical remedy if their privacy is breached.

The member for Flinders has noted that in the age of communication we must weigh and balance competing principles, particularly between privacy, national security, commercial information and social engagement. The Attorney-General would like to thank the member for Flinders for his support for stopping unwanted and pestering direct marketing, establishing new Australian Privacy Principles, and introducing comprehensive credit reporting. The member for Stirling, in his contribution, raised four concerns. They were about Australian Privacy Principle 8, de-identified data, commencement of the bill and complaints mechanisms. A number of these concerns will in fact be addressed in the review that the House committee has recommended. Also, these issues were all raised in the Senate committee process, and the government will respond to any recommendations from this committee. Both the member for Flinders and the member for Stirling were disappointed when this bill was debated on 23 August 2012 that the House committee had not reported on the bill. The House committee has now reported, and the government has accepted the three recommendations in full. The Attorney-General would like to thank the Liberals for their support of this bill.

This bill is one of the most significant reforms to privacy law since Labor introduced the act in 1988. The measures in this bill have been carefully considered and extensively consulted on. The Attorney-General particularly wishes to acknowledge Senator Trish Crossin and Mr Graham Perrett MP, member for Moreton, for their detailed analysis of this bill in their respective committees. She would also like to thank the numerous stakeholders, from the industry associations to the law reform and privacy advocates, for their detailed discussions, arguments and feedback into this parliamentary process. She is confident that the government has struck the right balance in the privacy law in this bill. I, as the member for Braddon and parliamentary secretary, commend this bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.