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Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Page: 2235


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (12:13): I thank all senators for their contribution to the debate on the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020 today. The bill will implement the strongest possible ongoing privacy protections for data collected and generated by the Australian government's COVIDSafe app. Passage of this bill today will give the Australian public the greatest confidence that their personal information is secure when they choose to download and use COVIDSafe, thereby helping Australia to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The bill was designed to replace and enhance the interim privacy protections for COVIDSafe app data that were provided by the Minister for Health's biosecurity determination. This bill, very importantly, enshrines these privacy protections in primary legislation by inserting a new part into the Privacy Act 1988. Key provisions from the determination formalised by the bill include the criminal offence for unauthorised collection, disclosure and use of COVIDSafe app data and the criminal offence for requiring another person to download and use COVIDSafe or upload their data to the national COVIDSafe data store.

The bill also goes further than the determination. It does this by introducing new additional privacy protections, the most significant of which extends the Australian Privacy Principles, the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme and the oversight of the Australian Information Commissioner to COVIDSafe app data. This means that a breach of the bill will also be a breach of the Privacy Act, including cases of breach by state and territory health officials.

This is not the only privacy protection that this bill strengthens. The law now includes provisions that guarantee no further data can be collected from former COVIDSafe users and that establish a clear, legislatively defined process for how all data in the national COVIDSafe data store will be deleted when the COVIDSafe app is no longer required.

A number of points have been raised in the debate today. Let me refer to those briefly. Firstly, the contract with AWS is a combination of hosting, development and operational services, which is more extensive than services provided by pure hosting providers. While there are several Australian cloud pproviders that could have provided elements of the service that AWS has provided, AWS's ability to scale very quickly in this pandemic context and to provide a broader range of services is beneficial for the purposes to which the COVIDSafe app is to be put. In relation to the CLOUD Act, any transfer of data to any country outside Australia will constitute a criminal offence under the provisions of the bill and attract a penalty of five years imprisonment.

I understand there are also issues raised in relation to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. I would affirm for the record that, since this government was elected, funding to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has increased by over 75 per cent. As we do with all agencies, we'll continue to work with the OAIC to understand their resourcing requirements moving forward.

All of the agreements with the states and territories are signed. All of the states and territories have received appropriate training and are ready to access the data. Those agreements will of course need to be revised to take account of the final form of the amendments made to the Privacy Act 1988 by the parliament. We will also seek the approval of the states and territories to release those revised agreements.

This bill goes to unprecedented lengths to protect data collected and generated by the COVIDSafe app. It is important that we do that. As reiterated by the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Health in recent days, we have made COVIDSafe app data the most private and secure personal information in the country, whether that information is collected by a government agency or a private organisation.

By passing this bill through the Senate and into law, I sincerely echo the Attorney-General's own sincere hope that it gives all Australians the confidence they need to download and use the COVIDSafe app, as I have and as 5.83 million Australians have. Achieving a high uptake of COVIDSafe is important to help state and territory contact tracers get on top of outbreaks. It's very important work that they do, and it will build upon the work of over five million Australians, as I have said, who have already downloaded the app and are helping us to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.