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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Voices for privacy but some stick to familiar tune

Peter van Onselen continues to focus attention on the exemption political parties enjoy from the Privacy Act in The Australian today reporting that Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is to move to axe this when parliament resumes, with Independent Andrew Wilkie, The Greens and former privacy commissioner Malcolm Crompton giving voice to the case for change. (Other exemptions for small business and the media in the conduct of journalism would have to get a mention in any debate, the latter conditional and dependent on the existence of a self regulatory scheme for print for which the ALRC recommended  improvements that no one is talking about so far.) Van Onselen in a separate article provides background and analysis on the issue. Milanda Rout reports Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said the community is concerned about what is happening to personal information.

 Elsewhere in the paper Legal Editor Chris Merritt again finds "Justin Quill of Kelly Hazell Quill"(no disclosure of close links with News) and media lawyer Nic Pullen helpful with end of the world quotes about the dangers of a statutory cause of action, this time "the chilling effect" it could have on freedom of speech. Having discovered yesterday that the public interest in publication and freedom of expression are certain to be part of the mix Merritt reports the unhappy news that Mr Pullen and Mr Quill "both dismissed the significance of the defence." Apparently they can tell even at this stage that judges won't get this right regardless of any parliamentary intent. "Mr Pullen said the track record of the judiciary on free speech suggested that the defence was unlikely to be effective."

In Fairfax publications Michael Pearce SC lays out the problem caused by the many and far-reaching intrusions into privacy wrought by recent technological and other innovations, the reasons why a legislative response is the best solution and why the ALRC's recommendation deserves serious consideration and support.
"The self-interested complaints of media organisations should not drown out the important policy issues behind this proposed reform."
Amen to that.

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