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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 3368


Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture) (11:44): I commend Senator O'Sullivan for his very considered contribution to the debate. I think it has been quite clearly articulated during the debate here this morning that the government in no way opposes proper management of data and appropriate frameworks around the management of privacy. Senator O'Sullivan quite clearly articulated that in his presentation, and I know my other colleagues have likewise.

I do not take away from Senator Singh's obvious intention to ensure that there are frameworks in place. But, like my colleagues, I do express concern that this is being pushed onto the chamber and the parliament without sufficient process for consultation. And I would have thought that this opposition might have learnt some lessons from its time in government and the many failures that it had through lack of consultation. It was a feature—

Senator McKenzie: A hallmark.

Senator COLBECK: a hallmark—that is a better word; thank you, Senator McKenzie—of their administration. And when you have organisations such as the then Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre of the University of New South Wales Faculty of Law saying that they had around 10 working hours to collaborate on, draft and finalise a submission on a matter of this level of moment, I would have thought that it would be obvious that that was inadequate consultation. When you have a number of organisations, including the Australian Privacy Foundation, expressing concern around the consultation on and the preparation of the legislation that was presented to the parliament last year, I would have thought that that would have been an obvious indicator that there were concerns around its preparation. I would have thought that that would have been obvious, given the concerns that were raised and what I believe was the general inadequacy in the addressing of those concerns.

Even in the government's Senate committee report from last year, I do not believe they genuinely addressed the concerns that were raised by people who submitted to that inquiry. Even as an opposition, if they had genuinely wanted to put some framework like this into the public arena, there should have been a full and open and proper consultative process through which you would derive the legislation. You would make sure that the inadequacies that were raised in the previous incarnation of the legislation were given a proper airing, so that those who expressed concern previously would have the opportunity to have those concerns addressed.

I note the concerns around the definitions in the document. Experience would show any legislator that getting the correct terms and definitions in place may have a profound and lasting impact, and getting them wrong may have a bigger and a detrimental impact. It is absolutely incumbent on us all to do the work to ensure those things are right. We have to do that, particularly in relation to matters of privacy. They can have long-lasting and, in many cases, completely unconsidered and negative impacts on the broader community.

The opposition brought this piece of legislation to the parliament without going through due process when it was initially introduced and they rushed it through a Senate inquiry in a short period of time—which, as I said before, was a hallmark of the way that they operated previously. Those are genuine reasons for the government at this point in time not to support this bill.

You would have thought that they would have learnt, as I said earlier. They brought on a piece of biosecurity legislation which would impact across all of Australia and they proposed to give the parliament one day to conduct a Senate inquiry. On that occasion, we were fortunate in that enough members of this chamber said that one day to consider the biosecurity legislation for the entire country was not enough. But obviously, as to the bill we are talking about now, that leeway was not given to the parliament. That is disappointing. There were so many times when the then government used their numbers in this place to ram through pieces of legislation, with short Senate inquiries that did not provide adequate consultation but had effects down the track—think the mining tax, think pink batts, think school halls; you can line them all up.

Senator Kroger: And the NBN.

Senator COLBECK: Well, the NBN—dear oh dear! There was even one piece of legislation that they introduced within 24 hours which had six amendments made to it within those 24 hours, and it was so bad that they even put a sunset clause in it so that the bill would kill itself off. You would have thought that they would have learnt their lesson, but obviously they have not.

We do not deny that there should be proper processes in place to ensure management of data. In fact, a matter was raised, I believe, earlier in the debate where a senior employee of Cbus leaked names, birth dates, postal and email addresses and phone numbers of contributors to the CFMEU for use in a campaign. That indicates that there needs to be some work done. I think it is fair that there should be some work done. But it should be done utilising proper consultation and proper process. And all of the people who have been mentioned in the debate this morning who have expressed concern would applaud that. You do not give an organisation like the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre of the Faculty of Law of the University of New South Wales 10 hours to consult on something like this. It really does not stack up. And of course when you have the Australian Privacy Foundation also expressing concerns, that is a fair indication of why proper consultation should be put in place and why we do not support this piece of legislation.

Debate adjourned.