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Monday, 21 September 1987
Page: 397


Mr SHIPTON(4.33) —As I rise to speak on the Privacy Bill 1986 and the Privacy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1986, I thank the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Nehl) for his indulgence in allowing me to speak by splitting the available time with me. At the beginning of my remarks, I would like to refer to the comments made by the previous Government speaker, the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Price). As I understood it, he stated that the Liberal Party of Australia did not campaign against the Australia Card, the identity card, during the election campaign. I can tell him that he is absolutely wrong, and from personal experience I can inform the House that I campaigned on the issue in my electorate.


Mr Nehl —So did I.


Mr SHIPTON —So did the honourable member for Cowper. I am pleased to say that I had a 2 per cent swing to me, and this was one of the big issues in my campaign. Moreover, on 7 July, I put out a national Press release pointing out that in this double dissolution election because of the ID card legislation, members of the public, Australians, were being asked to vote when they could not get copies of the Australia Card legislation, at least in Melbourne. One could not get copies of the legislation in Melbourne before an election that had been called because of that legislation. It is a scandal. I put out that release, but none of the media published it anywhere in Australia to my knowledge. The media has a lot to answer for.

The honourable member for Chifley made some other comments. He referred to Hitler and said that it was outrageous to raise those arguments in this debate. I can say that one cannot trust any government of the extreme Right or the extreme Left. No government in a democracy should be given the power for people to take it over, whether they are of the Right or of the Left. Hitler and Stalin are to be condemned equally and one could imagine the even worse horror-there was horror enough-if people like Hitler and Stalin had had available to them the information that will be available to the bureaucracy and to government under the Australia Card legislation. The holocaust in Hitler's time would look like a Sunday school picnic, if his Government in pre-war Germany had had available to it by computer and on database the information that the Australian Government will have if this iniquitous legislation goes through.

I would like also to deal with the driving licence argument. Government members are saying, as are a number of the proponents of the Australia Card legislation, that we all have driving licences and credit cards and this will just be another card. I do not agree with that argument and it needs to be explained. If we have a driving licence it is because we wish to drive a car, and we get a licence from the Government to do that. That is, we have an agreement between the Government and the individual to have a licence to do the thing on the licence-drive a motor vehicle. That is a one-off operation and the information that the individual puts in to get that licence should not be available to any other part of government for any other reason. It should be limited and quarantined to the driving licence itself.

The issue of credit cards is a matter of choice by individuals who wish to have those cards available to them to carry out financial and commercial transactions. I recognise that it is a limited choice in many ways because if one wants to live in a modern society, one has to have credit cards. However, it is again a matter of choice, and responsibility ought to go with the bank or the commercial organisation concerned with which one has the credit card arrangement to protect one's privacy in relation to the information that one reveals in one's application for that card and in the transactions that one carries out by virtue of the use of that card.

The honourable member for Chifley challenged Opposition members to express concern. I respond to that challenge and express concern. I think that there is a need for privacy legislation in relation to the state of affairs that exists at the present time. There is a need for privacy legislation in relation to private databanks that hold information about individuals. There is a need for privacy legislation in relation to information available from banks and credit card organisations, so that the use to which they can put the information that they hold and have is restricted, and in relation to whether they can trade lists and give them to other commercial organisations.

I understand that the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) is currently writing to certain bank account holders offering them free life insurance, or life insurance-I am not sure whether it is free or otherwise, but that is not relevant to the point. The point is that here is a bank writing to individual customers. I would be interested to know on what basis it does so. On the form that one has to fill in for the life insurance is a whole range of personal details. It raises real questions of privacy of the individual, and there is a need today for transactions of that type to be protected by privacy legislation so that the bank, in this case the ANZ, with personal data about us keeps it private. Banks have personal details of the lives of each and every one of us because we fill in application forms for loans and so on. There is a need for strict controls on the use that that information can be put to because we have no common law right, as individuals, to query the banks' use of that information other than for fraud-and I am not suggesting that. There is a need for the privacy of each of us to be protected.

This legislation is part of the Australia Card double. The so-called privacy legislation goes hand in hand with the Australia Card Bill. The Government is not interested in privacy as a matter of principle because it has had a report from the Law Reform Commission since 1983. The Government has only suddenly discovered privacy as an issue and now professes concern about it because of the ID card legislation. The Government is attempting to make that legislation look respectable by bringing to the House the Privacy Bill that we are debating today. The Government is not interested in privacy; it is just a pretence to say to the community, `We are concerned because we have presented this privacy legislation'.

Australia needs an adequate scheme for the protection of privacy-there is a crying need for it-but not the weak effort that is embodied in this pretence of legislation, a pretence that the Government is concerned with privacy when it is doing away with it in one massive step with this Australia Card legislation. It is an abortive attempt to profess concern as it introduces the most iniquitous legislation to control the lives of individual Australians that has ever been introduced. The privacy legislation is a charade; it is a patch-up job. The Government has done nothing. It has sat on the Law Reform Commission report since it received it in 1983. This is an outrage.

One of the greatest problems for government and democracy today is the growth of the bureaucracy; it is one of the great dangers in our society. The growth of bureaucracy is problem enough but, coupled with the new information technology that is available through computers and databases and the linking of those databases through computers, it becomes frightening. It adds exponentially to the power of bureaucracy and, as a corollary, the growth of bureaucracy. Through the wonderful developments of new technology bureaucrats are being given an exponential increase in their power over our lives to an extent that they have never had before.

The growth of bureaucracy is frightening enough without the advent of modern technology. With it, this growth becomes exponentially more frightening and the need to do something about it and to have effective privacy legislation-not the charade that just been produced to the House-becomes even greater. The information on computer databases is horrendous. It provides greater power than the Government has ever had before over the lives of Australians. In practice, it gives bureaucrats more power, because of the information they have, over the lives of Australians in an implied way than governments had in practice in real power when Australians had identity cards in Word War II.


Mr Jull —More power than in any other Western democracy.


Mr SHIPTON —As the honourable member quite rightly interjects, that is more power over citizens than in any other Western democracy.


Dr Klugman —That is just not true.


Mr SHIPTON —It is true, and the honourable member for Prospect alarms me because he is a man on the Government side that I have respect for. I would have thought he would be one person not to trust any bureaucrat with the type of information that is available under this Australia Card legislation. I want to quote from an article in the Australian newspaper of 9 September by Morris West. The article is entitled `Australia Card: beware the State'. Mr West refers to an argument that we have been urged to swallow-that the government of the day is the vigilant and benevolent defender of our rights and liberties. Morris West says:

Not so. Never so. A government is a temporary instrument of power.

That power is vested permanently in an entrenched public service. The public service can be brought to account for its action only with the greatest difficulty.

All men are corruptible, all power corrupts in greater or less degree. In a democracy the only safe course is to cede to our elected servants as little power as is necessary and to call them constantly to answer for their use of it.

I add to what Morris West said. People have to get behind the elected representatives because our power-as members of this House-to get to the bureaucracy is limited. The greatest threat is the bureaucracy that lies behind the Executive government of this nation. It is the bureaucracy that will be given greater power by the Australia Card legislation, and that legislation gives more power over individuals. This power of the bureaucracy is frightening. There is a need to limit it. Freedom has never been more under threat and attack than it is in Australia at present. Undoubtedly there is a need for privacy legislation to restore that balance and freedom before legislation is introduced that further takes privacy away in the massive way that occurs in the Australia Card legislation. The Law Council of Australia, which represents 23,000 barristers and solicitors, says that the legislation provides inadequate protection of privacy.


Mr Rocher —What do the Labor lawyers say?


Mr SHIPTON —They agree. That was a good interjection. Where are all the members of the Socialist Left faction of the Government who, in their hearts, do not agree with this legislation? The Minister for Consumer Affairs (Mr Staples), the Minister at the table, is a member of the Socialist Left faction. I challenge him to tell this House what he really thinks about the legislation. Is he really in favour of the identity card?


Mr Hunt —What about the Victorian Labor Party?


Mr SHIPTON —This legislation is a challenge to Mr Cain and the Victorian Labor Party. What do they think about it? I know that Mr Unsworth does not like it. He is worried about losing seats by the bucket load over this legislation during the New South Wales election.


Mr Jull —They say Mr Bannon is twitchy.


Mr SHIPTON —State Labor governments will desert this legislation the nearer they get to their elections because they know that Australians abhore legislation of this nature and resist authoritarianism in every form. That is the history of a free Australia. The polls show this. In the mall in Melbourne and in my electorate I have been inundated by people who are against this legislation. There is a campaign in my electorate. People are flooding my office with petitions. In the mall in Melbourne I was part of a group of Liberals campaigning against this legislation and people were queuing up to sign petitions to present to this House against the ID card. That is how much the card is hated by the electorate. I call on the Government to withdraw it.

I get back to the Data Protection Agency, the so-called protector under this legislation of our privacy. This will create just another bureaucracy with control over our lives. I would like to deal with some comments in the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), who introduced this legislation, but I am cognisant that my time is running out so I will just say that the Minister, when introducing this legislation, said:

Commonwealth agencies must have a lawful purpose for collecting personal information, and the purpose must be related to the functions or activities of the collector:

He went on to say that personal information, which is part of the information that can be collected:

is widely defined to include anything-fact, true or false, or opinion-that reasonably identifies the information-subject.

How frightening that is. The Minister is condemned out of his own mouth. He has indicated the right of collectors to gather personal information and use it against us. The Data Protection Agency established under this legislation is yet another bureaucracy and at the end of the day, as the Minister has said, it can be overruled if it is in the public interest. The bureaucracy will triumph again and honourable members will find that the rights of individual Australians are condemned and damned in practice. I urge the House to vote against the legislation.