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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Victorian Privacy Commissioner rings alarm bell

Victorian Privacy Commissioner, Paul Chadwick has had a major impact on discussion and debate on human rights issues in addition to sterling service in implementation of Victoria’s privacy laws.

In a thought provoking speech - "The Value of Privacy" on 1 June - he ventures into new territory sounding a very clear warning about why we should all be alert and somewhat alarmed about the use of CCTV cameras, and a Federal – state government plan to coordinate and develop a national framework for surveillance as a counter terrorism measure.

Read Chadwick’s hypothetical case studies from history and his picture of where the proposed initiative might take us in Australia, and ponder whether we should all accept that government knows best.

There were voices of concern raised last September about the civil liberties impact of that round of anti terrorism measures agreed between the Commonwealth and the states but those of you interested in government decision making processes should be aware of the considered opinion of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner 6 months after the event: "the single most serious failure of the deliberative democratic process in Australia that I have witnessed in almost 30 years of reporting on and participating in public affairs".
"The inadequacies included: lack of notice; narrow consultation within government; failure to provide details for public debate among relevant specialists in law and academia as well as community organisations (until the Chief Minister of the ACT breached protocol and unilaterally made draft legislation public); truncated parliamentary processes; official enquiries that enquired and reported after, not before, parliament made major legislative change directly relevant to the subject-matter of the enquiries. The subject matter involved fundamental re-balancing of liberty and security in favor of security (preventative detention without charge, control orders, limited rights to representation and other safeguards, sedition offences, widened information demand powers). In such matters, due process is essential to the legitimacy of the resulting law. Failure to honor deliberative democratic processes comes at a cost in confidence and trust".

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