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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1437

Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (17:05): I'm speaking in support of the amendment that's been moved by the shadow minister. More generally, this bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Consumer Data Right) Bill 2019, creates a consumer data right framework with the intent to allow individuals and businesses to easily access consumer transaction data held by businesses. It's more commonly known as the open banking regime, because it will initially apply to the banking industry before being expanded to other industries throughout the country. It authorises secure access to a person's personal data by accredited third parties known as authorised data recipients.

Generally, Labor supports these reforms. But in the consultations that have been undertaken in respect of the bill many organisations raised issues concerning the use of data by particular organisations and privacy associated with the use of that data, and also about ensuring that people from low socioeconomic backgrounds in particular aren't locked out of the economy or locked out of credit associated with the discriminatory use of data against them.

The bill allows for the consumer data framework to be progressively extended across different sectors of the economy. It starts with banking and will then extend to energy, and telecommunications will follow later. Sectors will only be designed following extensive consultation and assessment by the ACCC and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Under the framework, the ACCC will be empowered to set rules, accredit participants, oversee data standards and take enforcement action where consumers' rights are being seriously or systemically breached.

The reforms, if properly implemented, have the potential for the consumer data right to create a more dynamic economy through which new players, new products and competition can increase. Increasing competition, particularly in financial services and in the energy sector, should be one of the great benefits of this reform. Increased competition should come through the ability of consumers to shift between service providers and require service providers to give customers open access to their data in shifting. That data can relate to products that the consumer has been using, terms and conditions associated with the use of those products and transaction records, as well as credit histories and the like. Importantly, the consumer should be able to direct where the data goes.

On what we've seen with these reforms, Labor believe that more work needs to be done to improve the ability of ordinary Australians to control their own data and be satisfied and secure that their data is being used in the proper manner. The process of developing this highly complex initiative has been far from methodical. It reflects the government's rush to get this legislation introduced instead of creating good policy for a future economy.

There's been significant stakeholder concern that key details remain unclear, that processes designed for efficiency don't line up with existing rules or legislation and that a two-tiered system is simply unworkable. Some of those issues relate to consumers' ability to provide informed consent in relation to their data rights and significant knowledge gaps in the community about what sharing their data would mean. Many stakeholders have flagged a big concern with general education of the Australian public about what this all means: their rights associated with what data can be transferred, how it can be transferred and what can be done if someone feels that their data privacy has been breached. I know that there are provisions within the legislation and the explanatory memorandum goes through the role of the Privacy Act and also that of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, but nonetheless these concerns in the community do exist, and it's incumbent upon the government to make sure that those concerns are allayed, that they're consulting with individuals and groups who express those concerns and that they don't rush this policy.

We also must ensure that vulnerable consumers aren't locked out of the mainstream financial system. There have been concerns raised that people may have an adverse credit rating associated with a particular period in their life when something went wrong. It's not characteristic of their financial transaction history or indeed their financial security history, yet that data may be shared in a manner which locks them out of the mainstream financial system—in particular access to banking products, financial services, energy products and other products for sale in the wider community.

All Australians deserve to be included in our economy, and we expect that the ACCC will work hard to prevent predatory lenders and other fringe financial service providers from using consumer data right reforms to discriminate against and target the most vulnerable consumers. That's something that Labor is deeply concerned about. It's implicit in the second reading amendment that's been moved by the shadow minister, and it's something that we'll be seeking to interrogate the government further about as this bill proceeds through the parliament, particularly in the Senate.

Labor will watch carefully to ensure that vigorous regulations, rules and other legislative instruments set out under this bill protect the rights of consumers. We live in a world where, increasingly, data is driving decisions around people's right to participate within the economy and within society. It's a fact that we can't escape, but we as a parliament can put in place the necessary measures to ensure that people can feel safe about providing data and that the organisations that have access to that data aren't manipulating it or using it for ulterior motives that disadvantage people and consumers and prevent them from participating in the economy.

One of the great benefits of this reform should be consistency of data that's transferred, particularly around financial transactions and participation in energy schemes and the like, and ensuring that the data meets particular guidelines and that, when it is transferred, it is transferred in a manner that ensures that it's easy to understand; that consumers, importantly, understand what is being transferred; and that the provider of the transfer and the receiver of the transferred information are operating on the same platform to ensure consistency of that data. That should, of course, result in better outcomes for consumers and improved efficiency not only within industries but in the broader economy.

On the whole, this is a reform that's been coming for some time. It follows reforms that have occurred in other jurisdictions throughout the world that haven't been without fault and have had issues. Australia can certainly learn from some of the issues that have come up in other countries associated with this reform. Again we reiterate the point that more work needs to be done by the government, particularly around those privacy concerns and ensuring that vulnerable consumers aren't locked out of particular sectors of the economy and Australian society more generally.