Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
Victor Perton MP Chaired the Victorian Government’s Data Protection Advisory Council, established in January 1996, the terms of reference for which required it to report inter alia on the ‘most appropriate regulatory regime for Victoria governing collection, storage and transfer of information, particularly personal information held by public sector organisations and ... to consider the desirability of regulation covering the private sector ... and, make recommendations on the most appropriate regulatory regime for Data Protection and Privacy in Victoria.’ The following extracts are from Mr Perton’s speech to the IIR Leading Edge Strategies for Data Protection and Privacy Conference on 12-13 May, which discussed Victoria’s aim to be ‘the leading place in the Asia-Pacific region to set up and base electronic commerce’.
The Council’s report was presented to the Minister for Multimedia, on 20 December 1996. The DPAC Report is not yet a public document although it has been distributed to all members of Cabinet and Heads of Department as well as the relevant coalition committees. The inescapable conclusion of the government’s deliberations is that legislation must be introduced and carried within a short time frame.
In the light of the then international and national developments, DPAC recommended that a Privacy Act be created for implementation in Victoria in 1997. The regime was to dovetail with the then proposed Federal privacy regime for the private sector. While the recommended regulatory regime proposed by DPAC was based on the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 and the New Zealand Privacy Act 1993, DPAC took the best elements of a range of privacy regimes and combined them to create a regime reflecting international best practice - flexible, facilitative, easy to understand and capable of adaptation.
Data protection involves a careful balancing of two competing objectives: the first aims to inform and regulate the collection, use, storage, disclosure, individual access, and quality of personal information; the second recognises that competing public interests, for example, the free flow of information, may outweigh the individual’s right to privacy.
Mindful of these competing interests, the DPAC proposed:
As far the submissions DPAC received from the private sector were concerned, data protection and privacy are key concerns and broad support was indicated for a uniform, national, comprehensive and penalty-based privacy regime. Much of the support for a privacy regime for the private sector was explicitly positioned within an international framework. Ansett Australia, for example, stated baldly that:
If Australia is to be regarded as a leading member of the global community it must comply with international standards and it must introduce privacy legislation that complements that of its trading partners.
DPAC was concerned to ensure that no adverse impact from the European Directive was felt by Victorian based business. On that point, however, while the European Directive is important, the United States shows no inclination to bow to the dictates of the EU and it is difficult to predict the international enforcement of the directive. I am sure that the Prime Minister and the Trade Minister have this in mind as they determine the future federal course.
The Victorian Government is a Liberal-National Coalition. We respect the views of the Prime Minister and the Federal Liberal-National Coalition. However, our responsibility is to govern in the interests of all Victorians and provide them with the opportunities, which the information age promises.
We are ready to legislate for the government sector and will probably do so in the next Session of Parliament. We are ready to dovetail into any federal privacy regime, which meets the objective of creating excellence in Australian based electronic commerce. But we will not stand by and let delay at the Federal level hamper our ability to meet the needs and aspirations of Victorians.
We are prepared to be the lead state. We are prepared to be the catalyst of appropriate change. The Premier’s Multimedia Taskforce and other Taskforce’s which utilise many of the best Australian minds in this area of policy is focused on providing a framework to make Melbourne a centre of electronic business excellence. I invite you all to advise us on what you think should be part of our legislative, policy and action framework
The Victorian Government is committed to the development of a diverse and flourishing information economy. The Victorian Government prefers to think in terms of the benefits new technological applications may provide when pursued in tandem with a suitable legislative framework. Data protection is one of the foundation stones of this economy.
Victor Perton, Chairman, Victorian Data Protection Advisory Council.