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Privacy guidelines for the private sector.

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24 August 2001


The Government is aware of recent concerns expressed by business about the Privacy Commissioner’s draft guidelines that relate to new privacy laws due to come into effect at the end of the year.

The Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 is the result of extensive consultation with business and consumer groups. It has been designed to be light touch - to provide minimum standards for the protection of people’s personal information that is handled by private sector organisations without imposing high costs or red tape on business. The Government remains committed to ensuring that a light touch approach is also adopted with respect to the privacy guidelines.

While the Government’s preference would have been for industry to adopt voluntary codes of practice to address privacy issues, it needed to act in this area to avoid the complexity of differing State and Territory regimes which would have resulted in higher compliance costs for business, and confusion both domestically and in the trade context.

The Federal Privacy Commissioner is the independent authority with responsibility for implementing the new national privacy regime for the private sector when it comes into effect on 21 December 2001.

The Government is aware that the Privacy Commissioner’s initial draft guidelines, which were circulated for business and public consultation in May this year, have caused concern for many businesses.

The Privacy Commissioner has accepted the need to respond to these concerns and the guidelines are in the process of being substantially revised in consultation with business and industry groups. Further consultation will also occur before the Privacy Commissioner finalises the guidelines in September. Straightforward checklists and information sheets will also be released to assist business with the new law. The Privacy Commissioner has also indicated publicly that he will not be taking a heavy-handed approach to enforcement. His office will be working with - not against - business and other organisations to ensure realistic and mutually agreeable outcomes.

The Government is concerned to ensure that the revised guidelines will be of practical assistance to business and consumers consistent with its commitment to a light touch approach. The Privacy Commissioner is willing and available to assist business to understand how the legislation and guidelines will work in practice.


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