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Government to strengthen privacy protection



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JOINT NEWS RELEASE

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS

THE HON. DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP SENATOR THE HON. RICHARD ALSTON

16 December 1998

GOVERNMENT TO STRENGTHEN PRIVACY PROTECTION

The Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, and the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, today announced that the Government will legislate to support and strengthen self-regulatory privacy protection in the private sector.

The Privacy Commissioner and business have together made significant progress in data protection in the private sector through self-regulation and the Government wants that process to continue.

The Government believes those businesses that are self-regulating should be supported by an environment of consistency and certainty in relation to data protection standards across the private sector.

The best way of achieving that consistency and certainty is to establish a light touch legislative regime based on the Privacy Commissioner’s National Principles for the Fair Handling o f Personal Information. '

The scheme will be based on industry codes and apply a legislative framework only where industry codes are not adopted.

There will be appropriate exemptions, such as for employee records, which will mean that businesses which hold no personal data other than employee data will not be affected by the legislation.

Personal information collected and used by the media for journalistic purposes will also be exempt from the scheme.

The Privacy Commissioner will assist business to implement the scheme. The Commissioner has established excellent relations with business groups in developing the National Principles and will continue to encourage businesses to self-regulate.

The scheme will be designed to avoid imposing undue burdens or constraints on business.

This decision will provide a boost to electronic commerce by increasing the confidence of users that their personal data will be adequately protected.

The legislation will be developed by the Attorney-General in close consultation with Senator Alston, business, the Privacy Commissioner, relevant federal agencies and the State and Territory Governments.

The Government is committed to protecting the privacy of Australians.

M e d ia C o n ta c ts:

Nicholas Harford Mr Williams’ office 02 6277 7300

Terry O’Connor Senator Alston’s office 02 6277 7480