Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
Last month's report that the Government was finally about to succeed in removing the sunset clause in the Data-matching Program (Assistance & Tax) Act 1990 (see 2 PLPR 153) was premature. The government abandoned its attempt in response to an Opposition amendment to Sched 2 of the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Carer Pension and Other Measures) Bill 1995, and the sunset clause has been reset for 22 January 1999. The Senate also amended the reporting requirements to ensure that agencies have to table annual reports on the program in Parliament. The government had proposed annual reports to the Privacy Commissioner with reports to Parliament only after three years.
In debate in the House on 29 November, the Opposition spokesman, Phillip Ruddock, expressed the view that the results of the data-matching remain ambiguous in terms of the original expectations. He explained the Opposition favoured extension of the sunset clause to leave open the possibility that parliament may at some future date come to the view that data-matching should be discontinued. He saw annual reports to Parliament as the only appropriate way of ensuring parliamentary review. In the Senate, the Green's spokesperson, Senator Chamarette, while supporting the extension of the sunset clause and annual reporting to Parliament, also raised concerns about the further requirement to quote tax file numbers in relation to child-care Assistance. The Minister referred to concerns raised by the Privacy Commissioner, and the Opposition requested tabling of the relevant correspondence. This request was taken on notice by the Minister.