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Friday, September 22, 2006

NSW Attorney General speaks up on privacy

NSW Attorney General Bob Debus has appeared before the Parliamentary Budget Estimates Committee to answer questions about his portfolio, some of which concerned privacy issues. Hearing #5 8 September 2006 - Attorney General uncorrected.pdf

The privacy questions appear at page 25. The Attorney General didn't answer when asked about plans to appoint a privacy commissioner - it's now three and a half years since the last one resigned - but he's very happy with the performance of the Acting Commissioner.

The Government's reference to the NSW Law Reform Commission to review privacy laws, according to the Attorney General, is to "move towards a considerable reconstitution of our ideas of privacy and its protection. The present law exists as a kind of achipelago thoughout society, not as a set of principles that cover the activity of the community in anything like a systematic way".

The Attorney General plans to table in Parliament the statutory review of the Act that was due no later than November 2004 "when some particular matters have been dealt with by the Government".

When asked (page 30) about any plans to push privacy NSW functions off to the Ombudsman, the Attorney General reiterated that he has "never been anything but committed to Privacy NSW" and totally and utterly rejected the proposition that Privacy NSW is being run down.

All fair enough but it was a reasonable question given that Mr. Debus, on behalf of the Government introduced legislation in 2004 that passed the Assembly but was subsequently withdrawn when opposition was encounted in the Upper House, to abolish the Privacy Commission and transfer its functions to the Ombudsman.

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