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Friday, 18 September 1987
Page: 337


Mr LAMB(12.21) —Before the debate was interrupted yesterday, I was illustrating the very clear distinction between those who were political opportunists on this matter in this debate and those who had very genuine and professional concerns within the community and expressed those concerns quite adequately and competently. I chastised the Opposition rather heavily yesterday but because we do not have any of the Australian Democrats in this chamber they escaped any criticism.

I want to take up the debate again at that point. I refer to a full page advertisement which appeared on the back of the Australian Society in July this year as part of the election campaign. The article sets out the Australian Democrats' performance, their concerns and why they claim that the democratic future of the people depends on them. Not once in that advertisement is there any reference to the Australia Card, the need for privacy Bills or a data protection agency. This is another example of hypocrisy from a party represented in another place. The Australian Democrats believe that this is an issue of importance, yet it was not debated; they did not take up the cudgels themselves. They did not have the honesty to admit that the Government did go to the people and was prepared to debate this matter and that they did not take it up. So all members of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament stand guilty of not raising what they now raise in a most cheap, base and opportunistic way.

Let me return to the aims and objectives of the Privacy Bill before us. The Privacy Bill provides our citizens with a level of privacy protection that is consistent with efficient government administration. It contains a comprehensive set of rules meshing with other legislation dealing with information about individuals held by government. It is a companion of other measures designed to protect any abuse of the Australia Card system, such as the Data Protection Agency (DPA). It follows the example of similar countries such as the United States of America and Canada which have introduced privacy protection legislation. We have, in fact, drawn heavily on guidelines established through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Australian Law Reform Commissioner, Mr Justice Michael Kirby, who developed the final form of the guidelines before us. Those principles need to be restated. They are simply these: the Agency must have a lawful purpose to collect any information; that information must relate to the Agency's work; the Agency must advise and inform the citizen concerned of the collection and purpose of the information; the information must be stored securely; and there must be restricted access.

The honourable member for Flinders (Mr Reith), in his tirade yesterday, attacked this privacy legislation for being weak and yet those principles were set out on pages 74 and 75 of the report of the Joint Select Committee on an Australia Card. I suggest that the honourable member for Flinders must, indeed, be casting a slur on members of his own Party who supported those principles because he is decrying the legislation as weak. It was nothing more than an opportunistic outburst. Any breach will be deemed as interference with privacy and will be handled by the Data Protection Agency. As I said, those agencies will operate under the guidance of the DPA.

I think people need to know the consequences of the defeat of this Bill. We need this sort of legislation, not only because of the Australia Card, but also because separate data banks and agencies are already holding information about citizens and the citizen's privacy should be protected against abuse. This Bill will do just that. Whether or not an Australia Card is in place, this Bill is necessary and should be supported. I strongly believe that this sort of legislation in an appropriate form should be extended to the private sector. There are far more abuses of data banks held by private concerns, and this goes uncriticised by the Opposition. There is no suggestion from honourable members opposite that privacy Bills should be extended to that sector. Through the corporations power I would like to see the Government introduce appropriate legislation to ensure privacy in private data banks. I will be a little cynical at this point and say that if the Australia Card were privatised tomorrow, honourable members opposite would have no criticism of it. They would support it. That is the sort of cynical, opportunistic attitude they have.

This legislation is a national first to protect the privacy of records. It provides a model which could be extended to the private sector. I commend the legislation to the House.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) — Order! The honourable member's time has expired.