Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
NSW Privacy Commissioner resigns
Chris Puplick has resigned as NSW Privacy Commissioner and as President of the Anti-Discrimination Board. He resigned on 2 May 2003, having been Executive Member of the NSW Privacy Committee since 1992 and the inaugural NSW Privacy Commissioner since 1999.
Mr Puplick made a personal statement at the time of his resignation which said in part:
Over the course of the last several weeks the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales and myself as President have been the subject of serious adverse comment in the Parliament and in sections of the media. Our report Race for the Headlines has been widely misrepresented and misinterpreted in the media. The Premier himself has been critical of the work of the Board and I believe it is not possible for the Board to be an effective advocate for human rights in New South Wales in the absence of his personal support.
More recently allegations have been raised in the press which call in to question my impartiality and integrity in relation to the handling of a case in which the complainant was known to me personally. I reject utterly any implication that I acted improperly in this case.
Stating that an email he had sent during the course of an investigation had been ‘seriously misconstrued’, he concluded that ‘as a result of these events and the potential damage to the well deserved reputation that the Board has for integrity in dealing with complainants it would be best were I to tender my resignation to the Attorney-General’.
Mr Puplick had previously come under attack from the Premier in State Parliament, and over the past two years had been involved in a number of public disputes with various Ministers over both privacy and discrimination issues.
Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton has acknowledged Mr Puplick’s significant contributions to the national and international debate on privacy issues and that he ‘has not stepped away from speaking out to ensure all members of the community are aware of their rights’.
The Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) has expressed its appreciation to Mr Puplick for his active defence of privacy interests throughout his term, including his willingness to publicly confront powerful government and commercial interests when he considered this was necessary. His departure is a loss to the protection of privacy. l
WA plans privacy Act
Western Australian Attorney-General Jim McGinty is seeking public comment (by 30 June) on proposals for public sector privacy legislation for WA. The Government’s discussion paper proposes a law which would give the State’s Information Commissioner the additional role of Privacy Commissioner, with a function to investigate and mediate complaints, and issue compliance notices in the case of repeat or serious breaches. A new State Administrative Tribunal would review determinations by the Commissioner and could award damages. The information privacy principles are to be drawn from other Australian laws, rather than any one model, which should give us a fourth distinct set in our public sector laws. Health information would be included in the same Act. The proposals will be analysed in a later PLPR. l
See <www.ministers.wa.gov.au/main. cfm?MinId=06&Section=0051> for details.
Crompton solicits SPAM
The National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) report on email spam recommends that ASIC, ACCC and the Privacy Commissioner fully apply the laws they administer to spammers. Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton responded, ‘I encourage individuals who have been spammed by Australian organisations to take up the matter with the organisation’ and if that failed to complain to him. He said, ‘My Office, within current resource constraints, will use the full extent of the Privacy Act to combat the spam problem.’ See the article on South Korea’s spam legislation in this issue for a different approach. l
Commissioners to confer with the rich
The Australian Privacy Commissioner will host the annual International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioner’s Conference in September 2003, for only the second time. Attendance fees are $1250 for the two and a half day event, with concessions only for officials. This should ensure that it is an event for the big end of town only, with very little NGO or other civil society representation. Periodic hosting of these conferences is a good idea if it exposes Australians to international thinking on privacy issues, but this is not achieved if only business and government get to attend. It should be possible for the Commissioner to provide concessional attendance (minus expensive dinners) for at least a few less wealthy NGOs, without subsidising those with the resources to attend. l