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Monday, 26 October 2009
Page: 7017

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (4:37 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Let’s face it, we all dislike knowing that when you call your local bank or service provider for help, you end up talking to someone in a call centre overseas.

Then you discover your personal information has been booted offshore along with Aussie jobs.

Today, there have been reports that 83% of Australians do not want their personal information booted offshore without their written consent.

Family First’s bill, Keeping Jobs from Going Offshore (Protection of Personal Information) Bill 2009, requires companies to gain customers’ written consent before their personal information can be booted offshore and used abroad.

Australia has pretty good privacy laws and protection for consumers. But once that personal information is taken overseas god only knows what could happen to it.

Identity crime is on the increase so it’s time this Parliament did something to protect Australians personal information to lessen the chance of hard working Australians being scammed just so big business can save a few bucks.

There are two key benefits of companies obtaining customer permission before booting their personal information offshore:

  • Better Customer Service - 83% of Australians want to be asked before their personal information is sent offshore so it makes sense to force companies to seek customer permission before sending their personal information offshore.  Also, most Australians prefer to talk to someone local who properly understands their concerns rather than someone in an overseas call centre.
  • More Aussie Jobs in Australia - More companies will end up having their call centres based in Australia because customers prefer their personal information not be sent overseas.

In regards to jobs, each month new figures are released outlining the number of people who have lost their jobs and have been sent to the dole queue as a result of the global financial crisis.

So far this year the ANZ has booted more than 240 jobs overseas and Vodafone more than 400, and that’s just to name two.

Fortunately last month the unemployment rate steadied at 5.8% but despite this short reprieve, the Reserve Bank of Australia has still forecast this figure to increase further in the coming months.

It is a tragic outcome for thousands of Australians, who through no fault of their own, have become victims to the latest recession to hit our shores.

Unfortunately, this same sympathy does not appear to be shared by the country’s major banks. Unlike many other companies who have seen their profits slashed during the last year, the big banks have continued to record massive profits and have actually increased their market share in the home loan market from 80% to an astronomical 92%. This is virtually a complete dominance of the entire market. Whereas the global financial crisis has hit some businesses particularly hard, in many respects, the economic downturn has been a time of enormous opportunity for the banks.

Nevertheless, this has not stopped the banks from slashing hundreds of Australians workers from their workforce and sending them into an abyss of uncertainty. They have shamelessly disguised these job cuts as a consequence of the latest economic crisis instead of calling them for what they really are - a further attempt to boost their profits at the expense of the lives of ordinary Australians.

The banks of course are not the only industry to head down this path. Numerous other companies have made cuts to their workforce despite continuing to enjoy healthy profits and it is call centres that have been some of the biggest culprits.

For those companies that have embarked on this process, the decisions to slash workforce numbers in Australia do not represent job cuts but rather more accurately, a redistribution of the workforce. Instead, what we have seen is hundreds of jobs being sent offshore while Australian workers are being left out in the cold.

It is an appalling situation and one that needs to end immediately. This Bill will remedy this situation.

The Keeping Jobs From Going Offshore (Protection of Personal Information) Bill, will ensure Aussie jobs and call centre jobs stay in Australia rather than being outsourced to countries which have cheaper labour such as in Asia and other parts of the world.

Under this legislation, companies will need to write to every single customer and gain their written consent prior to transferring customer data overseas. In effect, individuals will have to opt-in to allow their private information to be given to an overseas subcontractor in a country without adequate privacy protection.

This measure will make it more difficult to send jobs off-shore and put the choice to off-shore jobs in the hands of Australian consumers and not Australian businesses.

This Bill will also make sure that personal information of Australian consumers - information such as credit card details, home addresses, passport numbers and marital status will remain in a safe and secure location.

Australians do not want their personal details shipped offshore to unknown locations for anyone to see.

We are talking about people’s personal information and any decision to send this information offshore must get that person’s written consent.

Big businesses in Australia make huge profits on the back of job cuts and it is Australian workers and families that pay the price with the loss of local jobs.

This legislation gives the power to outsource these jobs back to ordinary Australians. Now regular Australians will have the ability to force companies to keep people working in Australia and make it more difficult to ship these jobs to places like Bangalore.

We have to put a stop to the ridiculous practice of outsourcing Aussie jobs to other countries and give ordinary Australians a say on who has private information about them and whether jobs are sent off-shore. When Australians call their bank or phone companies they want to speak to an operator who is based in Australia not someone in India or the Philippines.

The US is also considering similar legislation in an effort to protect local jobs. At this time when keeping Australian workers in jobs must be our first priority, it is wrong for companies to ship jobs overseas at the expense of Australian workers and families.

Australians are sick and tired of call centre jobs being given to other countries, especially when we have many Australians in the unemployment queues.

Australians are also sick of annoying phone calls from overseas operators who can’t provide them with the service they require and deserve.

By passing this legislation, it will provide job security to thousands of Australians and ensure we continue to have a vibrant call centre industry on our own shores. It will also provide proper protection of personal information and maintain strict privacy arrangements. I urge all Senators to support this bill.

Senator FIELDING —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.