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Greenleaf, Graham --- "Fifth Annual Report on the Operation of the Privacy Act (1992-93)"  PrivLawPRpr 42; (1994) 1(3) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 56
Fifth Annual Report on the Operation of the Privacy Act (1992-93)
- Part (2) - Focus on policy
Australian Privacy Commissioner, December 1993
The first part of this review concentrated on the Commissioner's
compliance activities. Some of his contributions to policy development,
as detailed in the Report, are summarised below.
Advice and submissions
The Report is valuable for the summaries it provides of the very wide range
of (non-confidential) advices that the Commissioner
gives to agencies. Many
of these are of great importance to privacy, and some will be featured in future
issues of the Reporter.
His recent submissions to parliamentary inquiries were
detailed by Nigel Waters in (1994) 1 PLPR
6. Important aspects of advices detailed in the Report include:
- The refusal or failure of a number of Commonwealth agencies
(including the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Taxation
and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs) to
adopt the Commissioner's Data-Matching Guidelines.
- Because the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) is only binding on agencies,
Commonwealth agencies are being encouraged to include privacy
clauses in outsourcing contracts,
and the Commissioner has recommended
that the Act be amended to apply the IPPs to outsourcing contractors.
- The Commissioner is attempting to develop an agreed position
with the Attorney-General's Department on the interpretation of
(e) to IPP 11.1 (the law enforcement and revenue protection
exception). No consensus had been reached, and the Commissioner's
is detailed in a very interesting speech in Appendix
3. He considers that ''exception (e) involves a "reasonable
test, not a test of mere administrative convenience',
and in relation to data-matching he says ''I very much doubt whether
was intended to cater for bulk disclosures of this
- The Electoral Roll raises numerous privacy issues. The Electoral
Commission has sought to use extensive data-matching to maintain
the accuracy of the Roll, using Telecom's Electronic White Pages,
Australia Post's change of address data, and immigration records
of new naturalisations, whereas the Commissioner has sought less
privacy invasive alternatives. The Electoral Commission Act was
also amended so as to exempt the computerised form of the Electoral
Roll from the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth), and to limit
the use of the computerised roll to election-related matters and
prescribed permitted purposes. The Commissioner
example, use of the roll for medical research under NHMRC guidelines.
- Proposed regulations concerning Australia Post's National
Change of Address (NCOA) service, which would allow change of
to be provided to direct mail companies to
allow them to update their records, without the consent of the
were stated by the Commissioner to involve
''a very significant erosion of Australia Post's historical commitment
to the secrecy
of the mail'. The regulations were subsequently
withdrawn under threats of Senate disallowance, and replaced with
requiring customer consent. The Commissioner
was also involved in negotiations with Australia Post over its
proposal to establish
a comprehensive National Address File derived
from the post officer's observations, NCOA data and data- matching.
It would be useful if the Report also listed the occurrences of
confidential advices that the Commissioner gives, so that some
picture of the Commissioner's advice-giving role was available.
Specific areas of policy responsibility
The Commissioner prefers that calling number display (CND) only
be offered on an opt-in basis, and argues that AUSTEL's proposed
trial of CND (which has taken place at Wauchope) will be of limited
value. He recommended the extension of the Telecommunications
Interception Act 1979 (Cth) to cover radio communications.
Tax file numbers
The Commissioner warns that the proposed Child Care Rebate scheme
could involve a significant extension in the use of the TFN.
No breaches were reported to the Commissioner.
The Commissioner does not report any significant problems in supervising
the operation of the Act.
The ACT government and the Queensland Treasurer on behalf of all
States and Territories sought an exemption from the Commonwealth
legislation for the purpose of assessing all persons applying
to be casino employees. The Commissioner advised the Attorney-General
that he saw no reason to change his 1990 advice against this.
The Attorney-General accepted this advice.
No significant problems in administering the legislation are reported.