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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 6061

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (12:10): The Greens will also be supporting these amendments although we do not believe that go far enough. I will briefly put some comments on the record as to why.

The final amendment on the running sheet from the Australian Greens, which we will deal with next, gives these provisions and the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety some teeth. I will discuss those briefly we get to that amendment. The Australian Privacy Foundation, which pays pretty close attention to these matters, has said:

…the bill goes well beyond what is necessary in order to accede to the Convention, and the extensions are highly privacy-abusive.

I acknowledge that the government has at least sought to give some regard to those considerations. In the face of highly privacy-abusive provisions this amendment is therefore an attempt, I believe, by the government to strengthen privacy within the act. It does so by requiring regard to be had:

… as to whether any interference with privacy is justifiable, relevant and useful and the reason why the disclosure or use concerned is proposed to be authorised.

I must confess to strong disappointment that this is as far as the government is prepared to go. I would hope that that would be the case already—that that is already in effect. I do not understand why we would not only intercept—and therefore interfere with privacy—when it is justifiable, relevant and useful; so it is good that this language is in here. This goes back to the amendment that we debated before about who will watch the watchers. The ombudsman had some sensible proposals; the chamber chose to dice those an hour or so ago, so we will not have any oversight as to who is paying regard. The amendment does implement, in part, a recommendation of the committee. I will briefly quote from the relevant section of the committee's report:

In relation to AFP authorised disclosures, it is reasonable that something more than statistics is provided. The reporting could easily identify the countries that have received historic or existing telecommunications data without jeopardising any investigation or the privacy of any individual. Without such reporting, neither the Attorney-General nor the public will know with which countries the police are cooperating.

In as far as they go, these amendments are worthy and worth supporting. I will discuss again in detail, when we come to the final set of Greens amendments to this bill, why it is simply not good enough that people have regard. How do we know what regard is paid? There is no oversight there; there is no way of safeguarding behaviour. We know that cultures develop within organisations that are not at all respectful of privacy. We will be supporting these amendments; we will not detain the chamber any longer on this set of government amendments. It is at least a nod in the direction of the valuable work that the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety conducted on this bill—and those nods were pretty scarce.

Question agreed to.