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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Another commitment to nationally consistent privacy laws

The Federal Treasurer yesterday released the Government's responseto a January 2006 report of the Task Force on Reducing Regulatory Burdens on Business. (full response here).

Two privacy related recommendations in the report and the Government's responses are below. Everyone's in favour of uniform nationally consistent privacy laws. The only question is what they should contain. Let's hope the various Law Reform Commissions, committees and task forces don't fall over each other in an effort to sort all this out.
"Privacy and Surveillance
Recommendation 4.47: Endorse national consistency in privacy-related regulations
Committee of Attorneys-General to endorse national consistency in all privacy related legislation based on the concept of minimum effective regulation.

The Australian Government agrees to the recommendation and supports the goal of national consistency in privacy-related legislation. At the April 2006 meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, Attorneys-General agreed to establish a working group to advise Ministers on options for improving consistency in privacy
regulation, including workplace privacy. The working group will liaise with (and not duplicate the work of) the Australian Law Reform Commission (see recommendation4.48) in this area.
Recommendation 4.48: Undertake a comprehensive public review of privacy laws.
The Australian Government should commission a comprehensive, independent public review of privacy laws in Australia. The review should consider:
• the impact of privacy requirements on business compliance costs;

• all options for achieving effective nationally consistent privacy protection, including self-regulation and voluntary codes;

• whether there is a need to amend section 3 of the Privacy Act to remove any ambiguity about the regulatory intent of the private sector provisions;

• whether workplace privacy requirements unduly restrict business from meeting its obligations in other areas, including OH&S and fraud detection;

• the interaction of the Privacy Act with other Australian Government legislation including the Telecommunications Act and the Spam Act;

• the merits of developing a single set of privacy principles that could apply to both Australian Government agencies and private sector organisations; and

• the impact of privacy requirements on Government agencies sharing data.

The Australian Government agrees to the recommendation that a review of privacy laws is appropriate. A reference has been given to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to conduct such a review. The NSW Law Reform Commission has been given a reference to work jointly with the ALRC on this matter. The Victorian Law Reform Commission has recently completed a report on workplace privacy".

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