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Greenleaf, Graham --- "Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 (Cth) 'Sunset' clase extended, reporting obligations continue" [1994] PrivLawPRpr 6; (1994) 1(1) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 16

Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 (Cth) 'Sunset' clause extended, reporting obligations continue

Social Security (Budget and Other Measures) Legislation Amendment Act 1993 (Cth), Pt 3 - commenced 24 December 1993

The Australian Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 (Data-matching Act) had a three-year ''sunset clause' which was to expire on 23 January 1994 (s21). The Labor government, by the Social Security (Budget and Other Measures) Legislation Amendment Bill 1993 proposed to amend the Act by deleting the sunset clause, giving the data matching scheme permanent effect. The Opposition parties, with the support of the other non-Labor Senators, constituted a majority in the Senate to instead amend the Bill so that it amends the Data-Matching Act to extend the sunset clause until 23 January 1996 (s96).

The Senate also amended the government Bill by insertion of a new s94 which amends s12(2A) of the Data-matching Act so that it now requires the matching agency and each source agency to table in each House of Parliament ''further comprehensive reports including references to all the matters identified in Guideline 12 of the Privacy Commissioners Guidelines: (a) by the end of October 1994; and (b) by the end of October 1995'.

The legislation also amends the Data-matching Act to allow details of joint applicants under the first home-owners scheme to be used for data-matching (definition of ''family identity data'), and allows the ATO to inform the matching agency whether any tax file numbers it discloses to the agency may have been known to or used by unauthorised persons (new s8A)

Comment

Senator Kay Patterson (Liberal, Victoria), moving the Opposition Amendments in the Senate (Senate Hansard 16 December 1993, p 4970), argued that the Auditor-General's recent report on data-matching (see Reports & Submissions,) raises significant doubts about the cost-effectiveness of the program. She noted that even the estimate of $70 million per year saving ''is very deceiving. Some $40 million of the $70 million is derived by simply asking for tax file numbers without having to do any data-matching whatsoever', and that it is also a peak figure and that savings will gradually fall away.

Roger Clarke's article in this issue rejects the purported $70 million savings as illusory and argues for the Act to be scrapped. These arguments, put forward by Professor Clarke for the Australian Privacy Foundation, ultimately failed to convince the Opposition parties to let the sun set for the last time on the Data-matching Act. It has been given a reprieve until 1996.

Graham Greenleaf

Next issue includes: amendments to Telecommunications Interception Act 1979 (Cth); Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Programs Privacy Guidelines 1994 (Australian Privacy Commissioner); Privacy Guidelines for HIV Testing (NSW Privacy Committee).


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