22 December 2020


The 43 page 'Bringing Australia's Privacy Act Up to International Standards (Submission in Response to the Privacy Act Review - Issues Paper)' by  Graham Greenleaf, Nigel Waters, Katherine Lane, Bruce Baer Arnold and Roger Clarke  - a submission made to Attorney-General's Department (Australia) Privacy Act Review - comments 

This submission to the Australian federal Attorney-General’s Departmen is by the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF), the country's leading privacy advocacy organisation, and is written by five members of its Board. It is in response to the Attorney-General’s Review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) – Issues Paper. 

The last comprehensive review of the Privacy Act was in 2008 with the publication of the Australian Law Reform Commission Report for Your Information – Australian Privacy Law and Practice (the ALRC Report). The ALRC report recognised privacy as a human right. It also found that privacy protection should take precedence over a range of countervailing interests, such as cost and convenience. However, although the government at the time professed to accept many of the ALRC’s recommendations, and said it would introduce legislation in a number of tranches, it failed to introduce many of the most important reforms, such as removal of exemptions. APF submits that, after this Review, the government should introduce one comprehensive reform Bill, and should not resort to the subterfuge of reform in stages. 

Significantly, since 2008, many countries have introduced stronger privacy protections. For example, the European Union (EU) has introduced significant privacy protections in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These laws are regarded as the gold standard in best practice data protection. The GDPR commenced operation in 2016 and was fully implemented across the EU by 2018. 

In comparison, Australia’s privacy and data protection laws are weak and do not meet the best practice standards set by the EU and other countries. This review must be used as an opportunity to modernize and strengthen Australia’s privacy laws to meet the best practice standards set Internationally. Australia should even seek to exceed those standards and lead the world. 

This submission addresses almost all of the 69 issues raised by the Attorney-General’s Department in the Issues Paper. The submission also addresses many of the submissions made to the Review by Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)... We have noted in this submission particular aspect to which we give support, and others we oppose.