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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 4996


Senator PATTERSON (3.57 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

(8)Page 106, after clause 100, insert the following new clause:

Guidelines relating to privacy

"100A. Subsection 12(2A) of the Principal Act is amended by omitting all the words after `each House of the Parliament' and substituting `further comprehensive reports including references to all the matters identified in Guideline 12 of the Privacy Commissioner's Guidelines:

(a)by the end of October 1994; and

    (b)by the end of October 1995'.".

(9)Clause 102, page 106, omit the clause, substitute the following Division heading and clause—

"Division 2—Operation of Act

Cessation of operation of Act

"102. Section 21 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting `22 January 1994' and substituting `22 January 1996'.".

These amendments seek to extend the sunset provisions of the data-matching program until January 1996 and maintain the current annual reporting arrangements. I have taken a particular interest in privacy since I have been in this chamber and I was delighted that it was recognised the other day. I received a Christmas card from someone who recognises that I have taken a long interest in the matter. On the front of the card, Santa is up against some computer equipment and it reads, `He knows when you've been sleeping; he knows when you're awake; he knows when you've been bad or good', and inside the card reads, `You probably can sue him for invasion of privacy'. I thought that was quite appropriate when we are discussing the Privacy Bill. I have taken a long interest in it and I was delighted to see that we can have a sense of humour, despite the fact that it is a very serious issue.

  The sunset clause and the reporting arrangements were included in the data-matching act as a safeguard due to the significant privacy ramifications of the program and the doubts over its financial benefits. As I said in my second reading speech, the Australian National Audit Office report that was tabled in October demonstrates that these concerns, which were expressed by both the coalition and the Australian Democrats in late 1990, were totally valid.

  From reading the Hansard of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs one would think we looked into a crystal ball and said, `What if? Can you do this? How did you estimate that?'. We were nearly 100 per cent right and the government was nearly 100 per cent wrong. That is how bad it was. We were told that we would be jeopardising all these savings. I think I have mentioned before that we were going to change one word in the bill and Mr Hawke wrote to Dr Hewson making some extravagant claim that we were going to affect the savings. That has not been the case.

  I outlined in detail in the second reading speech and when the report came down that the government did not make the savings that it said it was going to make. We believe that the sunset clause should remain so that the parliament can observe what is happening and decide whether this very intrusive measure is warranted. It is also important that the department reports to the parliament on the basis which was required in the original bill and now in the act. That enables us, as representatives of the people, to look very closely at what is happening and how the guidelines are being met. From my discussions with the Democrats, I believe that they will be supporting the amendments and the extension of this sunset clause.