Following on from the Australian Law Reform Commission's
Report 108: "For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and
Practice" released on 11 August 2008, the Cabinet Secretary
and Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig, yesterday
released the Australian Government's first stage response to
the ALRC's privacy law review, proposing significant changes to
the law on privacy. Whilst the proposed reforms are the first step
towards full national consistency in privacy legislation and have
been welcomed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, they may
in time require organisations to update and enhance their privacy
processes and procedures to ensure compliance with the law and
potentially expose them to civil penalties for serious or repeated
breaches of privacy law.
How has the Government responded?
In responding to the ALRC's 28-month review of the
effectiveness of the Privacy Act and related laws, and the
recommendations set out in the ALRC Report, the Government has
recognised that Australian privacy laws have not kept pace with
changes in technology and how personal information is dealt with in
our society. In accepting the majority of the 197 ALRC
recommendations it has responded to, the Government has taken the
first steps in reforming Australian privacy law to meet the
following objectives and goals:
Harmonisation of the Privacy Principles to create a single set
which apply across both the public and private sectors
Updating the Privacy Act to reduce complexity and increase
clarity and ease of compliance
Creation of a comprehensive credit reporting framework to
improve individual credit assessments which complements the
Government's reforms to responsible lending practices
Ensuring that organisations continue to protect an
individual's right to privacy where personal information is
sent outside Australia
Improvement of health sector information flows to give
individuals better access to and control of their health records,
Increasing the powers of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner
in dealing with complaints, conducting investigations and promoting
compliance with privacy law.
Credit reporting and health services and research
Parts G and H of the Government's first stage response will
be of particular interest respectively to organisations in the
Financial Services and Health sectors.
Part G details the Government's acceptance of the ALRC
recommendations to introduce comprehensive credit reporting in
Australia, including acceptance of the ALRC's recommendation
that the use and disclosure of credit reporting information for
electronic identity verification to satisfy obligations under the
Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006
(Cth) (AML/CTF Act) should be authorised expressly under the
AML/CTF Act. The proviso to this is that adequate privacy
protections are put in place, and the Attorney-General's
Department has undertaken consultations as to how to implement the
recommendation whilst enhancing privacy.
Part H deals with the Government's response to the
ALRC's recommendations addressing a range of health privacy
issues including in respect of access to and transfer of health
records, and the interaction between health research which is in
the public interest and the community expectations of personal
What happens next?
The acceptance of many of the recommendations will require
amendments to the Privacy Act.
The Government now intends to prepare exposure draft legislation to
implement the proposed changes to the Privacy Act and related laws.
The exposure draft will be released in early 2010 for further
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.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
As a licensor or a licensee, here are some tips you should consider when negotiating your next licence agreement.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).