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Thursday, 6 June 2013
Page: 5706


Mr GEORGANAS (HindmarshSecond Deputy Speaker) (12:30): I rise in support of the Privacy Amendment (Privacy Alerts) Bill 2013. It gives me great pleasure to be able to speak on a bill that secures the protection of consumers and strengthens consumer laws and the Privacy Act itself. These are very important for the individuals that do business with big firms, companies, banks, telcos, et cetera.

We should remind ourselves at this point that it was Labor, back in 1988, that passed one of the first privacy laws that this country had seen. Again, we see Labor acting to strengthen these laws. No doubt, back in 1988, one of my predecessors, the member for Hawker, Ralph Jacobi—Hawker was a neighbouring seat to Hindmarsh and has now merged with Hindmarsh—had a lot to do with this bill, as he had a very keen interest in consumer affairs, insurance laws and protecting the rights of consumers.

As I said, in today's world, where we do business with multinational firms and internet companies, we all have usernames, databases, pass codes. I might have half a dozen passwords which, if I did not write them down and keep them somewhere safe, I would forget. But all these passwords give us access to our banking accounts, to our telephone accounts, to our taxation accounts and to a whole range of things that keep this world going. That is why I am very pleased to see that this bill will strengthen these laws and introduce a mandatory data-breach notification provision for agencies and organisations that are regulated by the act. That means that if these particular organisations, agencies or businesses have their databases breached then the consumer or the individual will have to be notified immediately of that breach.

These reforms will strengthen the Privacy Act. We have also seen bills that will give more power to the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner, so that individuals can get enforceable remedies—for example, in the courts—rather than just make a complaint. That is real action that helps people all over Australia.

As I said, the bill before us will implement key recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission's report into privacy and it will implement a mandatory reporting scheme that will enable the individuals affected by a data breach to take action to prevent identity theft and fraud, by taking action such as cancelling their credit cards or changing their passwords et cetera.

It will also encourage private sector organisations, individuals and government agencies to lift their on-line security standards. No big bank or organisation wants to risk its reputation by having its data breached at any time. This bill is all about more transparency. It will ensure that organisations are more transparent about how they handle people's very private and personal information.

We have seen events such as the hacking of the ABC online site, which someone got into and was able to access thousands of passwords. You know at that point there is a legal requirement to notify the consumers that that privacy has been breached. That is one example of a breach of privacy. Another example that comes to mind is the security breach that was sustained by Sony on the PlayStation network that led to the possible disclosure of hundreds of thousands of consumers' personal data. If there is not a system in place that ensures consumers are notified when their personal data is vulnerable then consumers are not able to remedy the situation. That is what this bill does: it allows the consumer to remedy the situation by changing a password, cancelling a credit card or doing whatever needs to be done. In an example where you have your credit card stolen, if you work it out immediately then you are able to cancel that credit card, but, if it takes you about two weeks to work out, a lot of damage can be done in those two weeks.

This proposal has strong support from the information and privacy commissioners, consumer advocates and IT security companies. It is the right time to implement these reforms. I am very proud to be part of a government that is committed to the privacy of Australians. This bill is a big win for consumers. It enhances their privacy protection in an ever-advancing digital landscape. I commend the bill to the House.