Australia to review privacy law provisions

Enterprises handling the personal information of customers are being given a second chance to influence the operation of the Australian federal Privacy Act (1998). Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock has announced a review of private sector provisions of the law.

According to a statement from Ruddock’s office, Australian Federal Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis has been asked to “examine the impact of the legislation on the community and the private sector”, with the review assessing whether regulation of the private sector has been a success since the introduction of national legislation three years ago.

Specifically, the review will consider whether the laws have achieved a “comprehensive national scheme for the private sector that regulates how organizations collect, use, store, disclose and transfer individuals’ personal information.”

A spokesperson for Ruddock said the Privacy Act review was not a legislative roll-back, but part of a scheduled, retrospective evaluation that had been incorporated into the original legislative framework by the Attorney General Daryl Williams.

“It’s democracy in action,” the spokesperson said.

Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis said the review would consist of the release of an issues paper in October to the community followed by a two-month consultative period during which people would be able to make submissions before the report is finalized at the end of March 2005.

“This is a chance to let the Office know how the private sector provisions are working and what the effects on community and businesses have been,” Curtis said, adding her office will be holding meetings with stakeholders.

These will include consumer and privacy advocacy groups, business representatives and members of the private health sector Curtis said.

More specifically, key private industry stakeholders appointed to the review’s steering committee include: Australian Consumers’ Association senior policy officer for ICT Charles Britton; Internet Industry Association CEO Peter Coroneos; Australian Bankers’ Association director of retail regulatory policy Ian Gilbert; and senior lecturer in industrial relations and organizational behaviour from the University of New South Wales John O’Brien.

The terms of reference for the review are available from the Privacy Commission’s Web site at

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