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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 3363

Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (11:12): I would like to contribute to this debate. The Privacy Amendment (Privacy Alerts) Bill 2014 seeks to amend the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 as amended by the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012. One of the first things that you learn in life is that you cannot educate idiots. I refer to the opposition here. Look at what they have done in their time in government: the rush, rush, rush. We could talk about the pink batts fiasco, the hundreds of houses burnt down and, sadly, the four lives lost—and the inquiry underway now will no doubt find out more about that.

We could talk about the emails that came in about the live beef exports, so it was: 'Let's just rush another decision. Let's just rush it.' The ramifications for rural Australia of another rushed decision because of the 'Miss Populist' Prime Minister—Ms Julia Gillard, at the time—were terrible: the loss of exports of live animals. Of course, those live animals had to be under 350 kilos live weight, so the immediate suspension of the live trade of cattle to Indonesia meant that, as time went on, those cattle exceeded that weight, then they could not go to Indonesia. So they were brought down south. We had cows being brought from the top of Western Australia to Inverell, where I live, in northern New South Wales, for slaughter—two or three days on road trains—because of a rushed decision.

The reason I make this point is that nothing has changed. Here it is again: 'Let's rush, rush, rush.' Let us have a look at the facts of the inquiry. This bill was referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee on 18 June 2013. Submissions closed on 20 June—two days later, submissions closed—and the committee was to report on 25 June. It was referred on 18 June and it had to report six days later. What was the rush? In their submission, the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre of the University of New South Wales were scathing of this rushed time frame. I quote from their submission:

(Note that we received this at close of business Tuesday, due noon Thursday; the provision of around 10 working hours in which to collaborate on, draft and finalise a submission to your Committee is clearly inadequate …

I agree: 10 working hours in which to lodge a submission is clearly inadequate. What is this about? Aren't we seeking public input, public submissions and public witnesses to actually scrutinise the legislation? They went on:

… even given the demands of the legislative process.)

The submission from the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at UNSW on this Bill comprises only this message, and is necessarily incomplete. (We would normally hope to survey issues raised by others in some depth before focusing on particular aspects which deserver separate comment or support, but this has only happened in cursory form, as has the review of the text.)

This is our whole argument here. Let me continue. Civil Liberties Australia put in a submission—not that I am a big fan of civil libertarians, but they have the right to have their say like everyone else in this country. They share concerns of other civil society groups about the short time frame. They said, 'What was the rush?' From referral of the bill, to reporting in six days, will someone please answer: what was the rush? It is a simple question. Why so little time for submitters to lodge their submissions? Why so little time to actually interview witnesses? Why such little time to report? Perhaps someone on the opposition bench could answer that question before this debate is over.

I expressed earlier the point about the rushed decision on the live cattle exports and the rushed decision on the pink batts stimulus plan. There were many rushed decisions on school buildings where, unfortunately, builders did not get paid because of the rushed decisions as to who got the contracts, the scrutiny of those companies—and then who went broke. Some builders built schools under the Building the Education Revolution and never got paid. I know of one builder in a country town who lost $600,000. He did not get paid. That was another rushed plan by the Australian Labor Party in their rush to do things. And that is the analogy I draw with this very legislation.

It is all right being in a rush to suit them. Mr Acting Deputy President Fawcett, you would remember only too well the guillotining legislation. Between November 2010 and June 2013, Labor—along with their political allies, of course, the Greens, who assisted them all the way—guillotined 214 pieces of legislation. We in government will not be pressured into agreeing to a proposal without giving it full and proper consideration. There has been no proper consideration by Labor on this bill. But we should not be surprised, because they were in chaos when they were in government.

The Liberal-National government is not opposed to considering proposals that improve data security or practices. Measures that enhance the protection and security of personal information of Australians are critical, particularly in a digital environment. We have heard of all the hackers and of people getting control of bank accounts and credit card numbers. They are certainly out there. Security in this region is vital, especially as more move to the digital age. It is not the days of: 'Hang on, the bank is sending out my bank statement and I look through it.' Now it is at the stage of going online. With electronic funds transfer, BPAY and that sort of banking we need tight security there. But there is more work to be done, including consulting broadly on the implications of a mandatory notification scheme. We need to consult broadly with the community and industry. We in government are not prepared to agree to a proposal without giving it full and proper consideration.

Senator Kroger mentioned some of the things that Senator Humphries and Senator Boyce said on the inquiry. Let me quote some of those things they said in the additional comments by coalition senators.

1.1 Coalition senators are, like a number of submitters to this inquiry, concerned with the lack of due process and time for scrutiny afforded to this bill through the committee.

So it was clear in writing there, in those additional comments. And further:

1.2 Coalition senators understand that the number and depth of analysis of submissions to this inquiry has been hampered by the restrictive timeframe—

as I said, referred on 18 June, report on 24 June. That is simply outrageous. You just ask the question: why the rush? They called for submissions on 18 June, closed submissions on 20 June, and then report on 24 June. It further states in the additional comments of coalition senators:

Given the importance of the nature of this matter, and the extensive criticisms which were levelled at the primary privacy legislation when it was examined by the committee last year, it is most unfortunate that thorough and detailed scrutiny should not have been afforded to this bill.

The senators also said:

In its submission, the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre of the University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law highlighted that it had "around 10 working hours—

as I have mentioned. Also:

The Australian Privacy Foundation too expressed this concern, citing a:

... seriously negative impact on the democratic process that is inherent in the provision by the Parliament of 1-1/2 working days …

I will repeat that. This is what the Australian Privacy Foundation also expressed:

... seriously negative impact on the democratic process that is inherent in the provision by the Parliament of 1-1/2 working days, during which civil society organisations are expected to discuss, draft and finalise a Submission …

Those additional comments by the coalition senators went on:

The Coalition has on a number of occasions highlighted consultation, or lack thereof, as a point of concern when dealing with bills through Senate committees. On this occasion, that concern is self-evident through the limited time available for submissions.

They made the point:

1.7 Coalition senators note the concerns expressed by a number of submitters regarding the lack of definition of the terms 'serious breach' or 'serious harm' in the legislation. We note also concerns expressed about 'regulatory overload' being experienced by industry as it digests both the new privacy regime and this latest tranche of significant enhancements to that regime. In the absence of public hearings of the committee and the receipt of live testimony, it is difficult to know what weight to place on these concerns.

So we have this item brought up today by the opposition, and how do we get a message through to them that rush, rush, rush means mistake, mistake and more mistakes? That is exactly what we have here.

I am not going to speak for the whole 20 minutes but I support my colleague Senator Kroger when she highlighted this in her presentation to this chamber. So let's just put the brakes on. Let's just do it properly and get it right the first time. You will be very interested when Senator Bishop presents the report hopefully next week—I am sure it will be next week—on the inquiry we have had into ASIC. We have gone through it slowly, precisely, to do the best we can to get things right. This is no exception. Don't rush it; get it right. We have already seen far too many costly errors and mistakes, financial and life costing, unfortunately, by those opposite when they were in government. Rush, rush, rush and mistake, mistake, mistake. Let's get this one right.