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Labor obstructs privacy protection.

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2 April 1998





Labor has effectively voted against protecting the privacy of individual Australians when government services are outsou rced.


Labor's selective, misleading and irrelevant argument against the Government's action to protect privacy has failed to address the proposed legislation and Labor has again failed to detail amendments.


Instead of supporting this legislation, Labor has proposed amendments to apply the Privacy Act to the entire private sector.


By linking the protection of privacy for outsourced government services with extending privacy laws to the whole private sector, Labor is ignoring all Australians who deal with government departments or agencies, is misleading the Australian public on effective protection of privacy and is blatantly ignoring the positive action being taken to protect privacy in the private sector.


The Government has introduced the Privacy Amendment Bill to extend the protection of the Privacy Act to all contractors who hold personal information under a contract with the Commonwealth to deliver services.


The Government will also be introducing legislation to extend the Freedom of Information Act to apply to requests by individuals for access to and correction of personal information about themselves held by those contractors.


These are important and responsible provisions, which will continue existing privacy protection measures for those receiving services from the Commonwealth, whether those services are delivered directly by the Commonwealth, or by contractors.


The question of privacy laws for the private sector is a separate issue, which should not be used to delay passage of the Privacy Amendment Bill.


The Government is already taking action on privacy protection in the private sector generally.


On February 20 this year the Privacy Commissioner and I launched the National Principles for the Fair Handling of Personal Information.


In this way the government believes that privacy protection in the private sector can be ensured without imposing heavy-handed regulation on business.


This approach has been widely supported and organisations that have publicly spoken in favour of the Government's approach include:


* Australian Bankers Association

* Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

* Insurance Council of Australia

* Investment and Financial Services Association


* Telstra

* Australian Direct Marketing Association

* Readers' Digest

* Asia Pacific Smart Card Forum

* Credit Union Services Corp Australia

* Australian Internet Industry Association


The fact that Labor has mislead the public with statements that there is no support for the Government's approach to protecting privacy only serves to prove that they are wrong on this issue.


The Government calls on Labor to stop playing games, and pass the Privacy Amendment Bill without delay.


Media contact:  Nicholas Harford (02) 6277 7300