Recent events have renewed the community's focus on
issues of privacy, particularly in the face of technological
developments. As a result, on 21 July 2011 the Minister for
Privacy, The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP, announced that the
Commonwealth Government will seek the views of the public on
introducing a right to privacy in Australia. A public issues paper
will be issued shortly which will canvas the prospect of
introducing a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of
privacy. A period of public consultation will follow.
The Minister stated that:
"Privacy is emerging as a defining issue of the modern era,
especially as new technology provides more opportunities fro
communication, but also new challenges to privacy".
He also acknowledged that:
"privacy is a growing concern for every day Australians
– whether it is in our dealings with individuals,
businesses, government agencies or the media".
In 2008, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) reviewed
privacy laws and made 295 recommendations for changes to privacy
regulation and policy, including a proposal to introduce a
statutory cause of action for serious breaches of privacy. The
public issues paper and the public consultation builds on this
On 11 August 2008, Senator John Faulkner, the then Special
Minister for State and Cabinet Secretary, announced that the
Australian Government would respond to the ALRC's Report, For
Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice, in two
stages. The government issued the first stage of its response on 14
October 2009 which addressed 197 of the 295 recommendations in the
ALRC Report. On 24 June 2010, the Senate referred an exposure draft
of new Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) to the Senate Finance
and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry and
report. In January 2011, this was followed by exposure draft credit
reporting provisions. The Committee reported on the exposure draft
APPs in June 2011. The exposure drafts are the first in a series of
exposure draft amendments to privacy legislation anticipated to be
referred to the Senate committee for consideration and public
consultation. The legislation will then be consolidated in a
revised Privacy Act. The government has indicated that once the
first stage reforms have been finalised, Stage Two of the response
will consider the remaining 98 recommendations in the ALRC Report
that the government has not yet accepted or rejected, including a
statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy.
In light of recent world events, it appears that this particular
recommendation has assumed greater significance hence the
Minister's announcement on 21 July 2011 that a public issues
paper will be issued shortly followed by a period of public
In this context, the Report prepared by the NSW Law Reform
Commission on a statutory cause of action for invasion of privacy
should be considered: Report 120 (2009) – Invasion of
Privacy. It provides some of the detail as to what a statutory
cause of action may look like, and what defences may be
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Those types of personal disclosure may still be permitted under the Privacy Act as long as your house is in order.
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