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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21905

Mr McClelland asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 18 September 2003:

(1) What concerns has the European Union raised with the Government about the Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000.

(2) When and where did the European Union communicate these concerns to the Government.

(3) What steps has he taken since the passage of that Act to consider these concerns and what action has he taken in response to these concerns.

Mr Ruddock (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) to (3) On 26 January 2001, the Article 29 Working Party established under the 1995 European Union (EU) Directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (the Directive) adopted its Opinion 3/2001 on the level of protection provided by the Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 (the private sector provisions).

In the Opinion, the Article 29 Working Party viewed a number of matters as issues of concern, including lack of correction rights for EU citizens and onward transfers from Australia to other third countries. The full text of the Opinion can be found at market/privacy/index_en.htm.

Since the Opinion was released, both the former Attorney-General and officials of my Department have been engaged in continuing discussions with senior officials of the European Commission to correct misconceptions about Australia's legal system and the private sector provisions and to clarify the Working Party's specific concerns.

The Government considers that several of the concerns expressed in the Opinion are not strongly founded or merely reflect that different jurisdictions will adopt different approaches to meet their different circumstances. The Government is of the view that it is the responsibility of the Australian Government to determine the most appropriate privacy regime for Australia. However, the Opinion did usefully identify some technical matters which could be improved in the Privacy Act 1988. Amendments to give effect to these improvements will shortly be placed before Parliament.