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Wednesday, 4 October 2000
Page: 20683


Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (9:31 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill contains provisions, which will:

· resolve any questions about past use of electronically supplied elector information by prescribed Commonwealth government agencies and authorities, being prescribed authorities as listed in schedule 2 of the Electoral and Referendum Regulations and as defined in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918;

· avoid any uncertainty surrounding the admissibility of evidence in court which has been gathered relying, in some way, on electronically supplied elector information;

· resolve any questions about future use of elector information that was supplied electronically and which has been incorporated into prescribed authorities' information systems and from which it would be impracticable to identify and/or remove the information.

The amendments result from legal advice obtained in June and July 2000, including advice from the Solicitor-General, that indicated that the Australian Electoral Commission could only provide elector information in electronic format to prescribed authorities—that is, agency heads and authority chief executive officers of those Commonwealth agencies and authorities listed in schedule 2 of the Electoral and Referendum Regulations 1940—if permitted purposes for the use of the information had been prescribed. At the time, no such permitted purposes had been prescribed.

There was also concern that prescribed authorities may have difficulty in progressing cases which had in some way relied upon elector information supplied electronically by the AEC.

Without the proposed amendments there is a possibility that previous actions taken by prescribed authorities as a result of the use of elector information could be called into question and that challenges to prosecutions may result in lengthier trials and an increase in the number of appeals. The government's legal advice is that such challenges and appeals are not likely to succeed; however, they could result in the unnecessary waste of court time and legal resources. It is therefore preferable that any doubt in relation to the past use of elector information by prescribed authorities be removed. These amendments will fulfil that purpose.

The proposed amendments will also authorise the future use of elector information previously supplied on tape or disk that has been incorporated into a prescribed authority's information systems from which it would be impracticable to identify and/or remove the elector information supplied by the AEC. This will ensure that future actions taken by prescribed authorities cannot be called into question.

Further, the proposed amendments clarify that the use by prescribed authorities, after 30 June 2000, of elector information previously supplied on tape or disk is governed by the regulations prescribing permitted purposes in place at the time of use.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Horne) adjourned.