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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 6063

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (12:17): The government does not support the amendment. In part, the committee's recommendations expressed concern about the handling of personal information by foreign countries. The government does share that concern. It is clear that the bill retains all the existing protections relating to accessing information at the request of a foreign country. Where new access procedures are provided, they include their own additional protections. Under the bill, any impacts on an individual's privacy as a result of a mutual assistance request must be considered at multiple stages of the process. Those privacy considerations include how the information may be used by a foreign country. Disclosures of content and noncontent information for both domestic and foreign purposes can only occur following an assessment of how much the privacy of a person would be likely to be interfered with by the use or disclosure.

In examining the amendment proposed, it would be impractical to assess each country's privacy policies and practice before responding to every request. It is more appropriate for the safeguards under the mutual assistance act to apply to formal requests and for the AFP to assess the privacy implications for particular types of disclosures and consider the nature of the alleged offence. Following on from that, any information provided to foreign agencies under the amendments would only be done subject to the following conditions: that the information will only be used for the purpose for which the foreign country requested the information, that any document or other thing containing the information will be destroyed when it is no longer required for those purposes, and any other conditions which can be determined in writing by the Attorney-General. When considering a request, the Attorney-General has a broad discretion to refuse mutual assistance under 8(2)(g) of the mutual assistance act. If there were any undue impact on an individual's privacy, then the request could be refused on that ground.