Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
The Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello has referred the question of whether census forms should continue to be destroyed at the completion of the census, to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The terms of reference, announced on 7 May 1997, require the committee to look at current practices and make recommendations taking into account: ‘(a) the effect retention would have on the quality, and hence the value, of data from future censuses and other ABS collections; (b) the privacy concerns relating to the storage and use of name-identified census data; (c) the value of name-identified records for medical, social and genealogical research released after a significant period of time; and (d) the cost of retention.’
The Treasurer noted that overseas practice was mixed, with the US and the UK retaining census records, but with recent reversals of previous retention practices in Canada (for cost reasons) and NZ (for privacy reasons).
Premier Bob Carr in NSW recently released the surviving details of the 1901 census (from when it was a State responsibility). The debate is likely to be a lively one, with some politicians, newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald, and various medical, historical and genealogical organisations supporting retention.
The NZ Privacy Commissioner’s fourth annual Privacy Issues Forum will be held at the Ellerslie Convention Centre, Auckland, on Thursday 10 July 1997. International speakers will include the Privacy Commissioners of Australia and Hong Kong. There will also be a half-day workshop for privacy officers on 11 June. The Privacy Agencies of New Zealand and Australia (PANZA) will hold their six-monthly closed meeting on 9 July.
Contact the Commissioner’s Office:
PO Box 466 Auckland;
tel (09) 302 8680, fax (09) 302 2305 or
The new Services Delivery Agency takes over most of the payment delivery responsibilities of Commonwealth agencies such as DSS, DVA and DEET. During the debate on the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency Bill 1996 the Minister for Social Security, Senator Jocelyn Newman gave a public statement of the Government’s privacy commitments in relation to the agency, as agreed in consultations with the Privacy Commissioner after which the Commissioner stated she had no objections to the Bills proceeding (Senate Hansard 26 March 1997).
The Government’s commitment is that:
the existing privacy regime, including the Privacy Act, will apply to the Services Delivery Agency and there will be no diminution in the protection that the Privacy Act and the confidentiality provisions of the Social Security Act, for example, affords to customers of the agency. While the agency will be subject to the Privacy Act, I want to ensure that the bringing together of the functions of several departments fully complies with the principles underlying the Privacy Act.
The agency and the departments will be required to consult with the Privacy Commissioner in the development of guidelines which the Minister will then direct the board of the agency to follow. The consultations will include the use of identification numbers and common core client information, flows of data between the agency and other departments, and privacy implications of any proposed new functions for the agency (that is, ‘function creep’).