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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 23


Senator NEWMAN —Welcome, Mr President, to the chair. My question is directed to the Minister for Family Services. Does the minister agree that it is important to protect the privacy of sensitive data on children, parents and child carers? Does the minister agree with the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Australian Privacy Foundation that the NCAC, as an incorporated association and not a government agency, is not subject to an appropriate set of responsibilities and sanctions to protect such sensitive personal data? Will the minister withdraw the child care accreditation guidelines in order to reform this devious corporate device which has taken important private data outside the protection of the Privacy Commission?


Senator CROWLEY —Mr President, I also offer my congratulations to you on your appointment as President of the Senate. I take this opportunity to remark, in support of one of my other colleagues, that Western Australia is indeed doing very well. We may be raising you to the presidency but we also look forward very much to welcoming Carmen Lawrence from Western Australia to join the ranks of good members on this side.

  In answer to Senator Newman's question, the matter of privacy has been raised and brought to my attention as a concern about the accreditation committee. I point out to Senator Newman that this matter was brought to my attention by an article in the Australian about the Australian Privacy Foundation's concerns. I can assure Senator Newman that appropriate protection of information collected by the National Child Care Accreditation Council has been the subject of discussion with the Privacy Commission and the Australian Law Reform Commission. Indeed, I can assure Senator Newman and the Senate that necessary protection, handling arrangements, storage and release of information are currently being negotiated. It is expected that those arrangements will be implemented before the system becomes fully operational on 1 July 1994 and will mirror privacy principles applying to government agencies.

  It is also important to know that the intention is that the National Child Care Accreditation Council will become a company limited by guarantee and will, therefore, be subject to the provision of corporation law governing improper use of information. So I can assure Senator Newman and the Senate that the government is aware of the concern raised about privacy. The Privacy Commissioner has had discussions with the National Child Care Accreditation Council and is meeting with it. The matters that have been raised as a possible concern ought be laid to rest. There is no reason for concern.


Senator NEWMAN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for her response, but I ask the minister again: will she withdraw the child care accreditation guidelines while these additional guidelines are put into legislative form for the Senate to approve?


Senator CROWLEY —There is absolutely no need to change, withdraw or amend the accreditation guidelines, despite the fact that I understand those opposite intend to have a second run at it tomorrow. Every time one thinks of something new, Senator Newman comes up with the same old response to it. Protection is guaranteed under the arrangements and there is no need to change those guidelines. Arrangements will not be necessary to amend the guidelines; there is no need for that further debate on accreditation.