IT is now clear that the Gillard government is preparing to expose business to a wave of class actions in order to step up its vendetta against the media. The media barely rates a mention in the issues paper on privacy law that was made public yesterday. But that fools nobody. This privacy plan, like the federal inquiry into the media, is another part of the government's hamfisted attempt to bring the media to heel. From the government's perspective, the privacy plan would have the great advantage of imposing a chilling effect on the press. It confirms that federal Labor is no longer the party of free speech.
But media lawyer Justin Quill, director of Kelly Hazell Quill Lawyers, which represents News Limited (publisher of The Australian) and other media organisations, said a statutory right to privacy would "certainly lessen free speech in Australia". "Claiming we need a statutory right to privacy is just wrong. Australia already has an enormous number of laws that protect people's privacy," Mr Quill said. "Introducing a statutory right to privacy will affect the balance the law currently strikes between protecting people's privacy and freedom of speech."
Contrary to Merritt's assertion, the issues paper does refer to alternatives including leaving it to the common law. As to other possibilities, I'm assuming criminal laws and sanctions for imprisonment won't sound any more attractive to business or "the real targets", the media:
Other legal remedies or mechanisms may provide more appropriate methods to protect privacy or influence behaviour than a civil mechanism such as the proposed cause of action. For example, criminal laws (and sanctions such as imprisonment), or data protection laws (and sanctions such as monetary fines), may be more appropriate to deter particular types of conduct than a civil cause of action.(P24)