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Privacy Laws in Australia. Part 2

By 31 October 2013General Law

Find Part 1 Here

Where to find help in case of privacy right violations?

Where to contact

  • A complaint may be lodged before the organisation or federal agency that caused the violation of the information. If the issue is not resolved, you can appeal your case to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
  • Appeal to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The Privacy Act creates an Office of the Privacy Commissioner and a Privacy Commissioner. An appeal to the Commissioner may be made for any violation of your privacy rights, unless the organisation has provided for its own dispute resolution mechanisms (Section 36 of the Act).

The Privacy Commissioner is an independent statutory officer appointed by the Governor-General for a period of up to seven years and tasked to perform the following:

  • Investigate complaints by individuals committed under the Privacy Act and other state legislations;
  • Conducting audits of agencies and organisations that are subject to the audit provisions of the Privacy Act;
  • Assist the government and private sector bodies (where applicable) to comply with relevant privacy legislations;
  • Provide information and advice to the public about their privacy rights;
  • Develop policy development;
  • Examine proposed legislations that may affect personal privacy; and
  • Approve and monitor privacy codes developed by organizations.
  • Complaints can also be filed before the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). This is an independent government agency established under the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010, headed by the Australian Information Commissioner. The office is within the Attorney-General’s jurisdiction, but the OAIC directly reports to Parliament of Australia, not to the Attorney-General.

Other State and Territory Privacy Laws

As stated earlier, there is no constitutional provision that defines the privacy rights of an individual. However each State and Territory has provides some form of protection to its people.

Some examples of the protections offered:

  • The Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 (NSW). This law established the NSW Office of the Privacy Commissioner and confers on the Commissioner powers concerning research, advice and handling complaints about breaches of privacy. The NSW Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) are similar to the Federal IPPs.
  • Health Records and Information Privacy Act (NSW). This provides privacy protections for medical information only.
  • Information Privacy Act 2000 (Victoria). The law created the Office of a Privacy Commissioner in Victoria. The Commissioner may undertake research and monitor developments in data processing and computer technology (including data matching and data linkage) to ensure any adverse effects on personal privacy are minimised.
    • An individual or organisation whose interests are affected by a decision of the Privacy Commissioner may apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for review of the decision.
  • The Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic). The law regulates data surveillance devices and their use by law enforcement officers in Victoria.
  • Health Records Act 2001 (Vic). It establishes privacy protections for medical information.
  • Queensland Information Standard 42 (IS42) Privacy. This is an administrative privacy regime that applies to all Queensland Government agencies. The core of IS42 mirrors that of the Commonwealth IPPs.
  • Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). Individuals may also request access to their personal information handled by Australian Government agencies.
  • Information Act 2002 (Northern Territory); and
  • Personal Information Protection Act 2004 (Tasmania).

Other Commonwealth laws concerning privacy rights

The Commonwealth Spent Convictions Scheme came into force on 30 June 1990 under the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth). The scheme entitles a person to not disclose (if requested) certain criminal convictions after ten years (or five year in the case of juvenile offenders) and provides protection against unauthorised use and disclosure of this information.

Data Matching

The Data Matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 (Cth) regulates the way tax file numbers are used in matching data held by the Australian Tax Office with data supplied by applicants for social security benefits and other forms of financial assistance.

National Health Act

The National Health Act 1953 (Cth) under which the Commissioner is required to issue guidelines covering the storage, use, disclosure and retention of individuals’ claims information under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Medicare program.