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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Page: 11773

Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (10:10): As deputy chair of the committee that reviewed this legislation, I thank the chair for her remarks. This was relatively uncontroversial. As the chair just outlined, there were three schedules. The first two are about funding. The third one was a little bit more controversial, in fact, because it involved the divulgement of private details of individuals to governments and departments within the education sector. This information is important to those bodies who make the decisions about the funding of the Australian education networks and to the way that we develop policy. On balance, the committee felt that it was right that they should have that information.

But concerns arose around an individual's right to privacy. I inquired of the department about what information at unit level actually entailed, because I was a bit confused by the term 'unit level'. Apparently, unit level is the level of the person: I am a unit, Mr Deputy Speaker Oakeshott is a unit and the member for Sturt is a unit. But when I made these inquiries and asked what level of information was then available about these particular units, I found that it included your age, your place of residence and your gender—all obvious things. But you can also find out whether the person is in receipt of a disability pension and what that disability might be. You can probably find out their ethnic origin. There is a depth of information there that I do not necessarily feel particularly comfortable about being available to the wider sector.

Then the concern is who has the rights to this information. The Privacy Commissioner assured us that he is happy with the protocols that have been put in place to ensure that this information does not fall into the wrong hands. I am relying on that advice in endorsing this bill, so I hope that the Privacy Commissioner has it right and that we will not be drawn back to this place at a future time to try to patch up something because that information stream has got out of order. Those protocols are of paramount importance. I take it on good faith that the information that the committee has received is accurate and to the point. Thank you.