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Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Page: 9875


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (16:17): I would like to thank senators for their contributions to this debate. I would also like to put on the record my thanks to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for its report and detailed work in considering this bill.

The Senate committee made 21 recommendations. The government has accepted 20 in full or in principle, and has noted the final recommendation, which calls on the Senate to pass the bill. The Senate committee has asked that a number of issues be addressed through amendments to the bill and in the revisions to the explanatory memorandum.

I foreshadow that opposition senators have also sought revisions to the explanatory memorandum and review of certain provisions. The government has carefully considered these requests and agreed to them. These changes will result in privacy laws that balance more appropriately the privacy of individuals and the legitimate activities of government agencies and the private sector.

The bill is ultimately the culmination of an extensive process of consultation with stakeholders and, of course, scrutiny by this parliament. It will implement more than half of the Australian Law Reform Commission's 295 recommendations. The bill will bring Australia's privacy regime into the digital age, reflecting our new approach to providing personal information over the internet. In particular, consumer privacy protection will be strengthened; and can I add that the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner will also have the power to get an enforceable outcome—an apology, a retraction, a takedown notice or compensation from a court. The commissioner will be able to apply to the courts for a civil penalty, and there are new civil penalties for serious repeated breaches of privacy, for which companies may be liable for a significant penalty.

In dealing with this bill in the summing-up stage, can I then say that the bill contains what this government considers the most significant reforms to privacy law since Labor introduced the act in 1988. They are long-overdue reforms that will give effect to key aspects of the ALRC's landmark report on privacy in Australia. I take this opportunity to thank the numerous stakeholders, from the industry associations to the law reform and privacy advocates, and also those opposite and on the cross benches, for the detailed discussions, arguments and feedback to finalise this bill before parliament.

In conclusion, I add that I am confident that we have struck the right balance in privacy law for Australia in this bill. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.