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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 13915


Ms ROXON (GellibrandAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (11:35): I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

The Senate amendments to the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 will change certain items in schedules 1, 2 and 4 of the bill. Many of these amendments adopt recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and respond to particular practical implementation issues raised by stakeholders.

The amendments to schedule 1 of the bill respond to a number of the Senate committee's recommendations aimed at improving the effectiveness and operation of the proposed Australian Privacy Principles. Specifically, Senate amendments have clarified Australian Privacy Principle 2, the right to use a pseudonym; removed the word 'prohibition' from the direct marketing Privacy Principle heading; and made minor amendments to provisions relating to medical research and permitted health situations.

In relation to schedule 2, on credit reporting, senators from the Liberal Party and the National Party, the Greens and Senator Xenophon were all very supportive of allowing APRA regulated mortgage insurers to have direct access to repayment history information. We believe this will result in a fairer and more balanced credit market and mean mortgage insurers can be a second set of eyes on the risks and rates of credit, particularly for first home buyers.

The government and the Liberal Party agreed in the Senate that 14 days is the appropriate amount of time for a written notice to be given to a consumer before a default is recorded on an individual's credit report. This notice can only be issued after 60 days, and this time frame will be sufficient for a majority of debts.

The government, opposition and Greens also agreed in the Senate that $150 was a more accurate reflection of the threshold for listing a default. The government will keep a watching brief over how this change affects the credit market, and a new regulation-making power will allow the government to adjust the rate as required.

The Senate also agreed to allow research about credit rather than a narrow concept of creditworthiness of an individual. More accurate research with appropriate consumer protections and new guidelines can only assist the Australian credit market to operate more smoothly.

A number of stakeholders raised practical concerns about the so-called Australia link requirement. The government consulted extensively across industry to find a solution which raises the bar on privacy protections of personal information sent offshore whilst also being practical to implement. Importantly, entities which send information offshore will still remain legally accountable in Australia.

I am pleased to report to the House that a number of industry peak bodies have expressed their satisfaction with this solution and thanked the Attorney-General's Department for their detailed and thorough approach to consultation. I would like to echo those thanks to the department for the work that they have done.

Furthermore, the bill will commence 15 months after royal assent rather than nine months. This will provide an adequate amount of time for community education about the changes and for the development of a credit-reporting code by the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner and the industry, and it will give industry more time to implement considerable IT changes in their credit-reporting systems.

A number of regulation-making powers were also added into the privacy bill—importantly, allowing relay services that might be developed in the future to assist an individual with a hearing or vision impairment to access their credit-reporting information.

Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues in the other place for their detailed consideration and support of this bill. It has been a very complex piece of work, and members of all parties have contributed constructively. Whilst this is also a little unusual, I would like to thank Lorna Clarke, from my office, who had to navigate a very complex set of changes that have now been agreed to by all parties and mean that this legislation can be implemented as soon as possible.

Question agreed to.