Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
The Senate Economics References Committee has released an issues paper intended to stimulate public debate about ensuring that the development of Australia's communications infrastructure is consistent with Australia's social, economic and cultural goals. The Committee's report canvasses privacy issues among a wide range of matters which need to be resolved ahead of the proposed deregulation of the telecommunications sector in 1997. In his Tabling Statement, the Committee Chairman, Senator Alan Ferguson, remarks that, "rather than setting a blue print for Australia's communications future, the paper provides a starting point and framework through which a common understanding of the key issues can be gained."
The report notes concerns that the existing sectoral approach to privacy protection through Austel may be inadequate to deal with the issues raised by the convergence of industries and technologies. In particular, the Committee notes the Privacy Commissioner's submission in favour of the Commonwealth taking the lead in developing a national policy on privacy and data protection.
The Committee observes that the two major privacy issues raised by the development of broadband services relate to information concerning the personal use of broadband services, and the information content of communications carried by broadband services.
The Committee notes the importance of resolving these issues given that Government Business Enterprises increasingly perform functions which previously fell within the framework of government. Often these GBEs are released from the constraints of public accountability such as the Privacy Act. The Report notes that the Telecom has developed an internal privacy code and a consultative program with the Telecom Australia Consumer Council to address privacy concerns.