Wednesday 17 November 2004

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, this bill is urgently needed. There are grave concerns among the public and certainly in my electorate over how information about individuals is gathered and used. It would not be an exaggeration to say that many people feel threatened and intruded upon. The purpose of this bill, as the minister pointed out in the introduction and as presented too by the Deputy Leader, is to safeguard personal information gathered by State government agencies, government business enterprises and local councils to ensure that it is secure and then used in an appropriate manner.

That is all well and good. Care has been taken to ensure the measures compare well with those in other States and countries but ultimately the burden of policing these measures falls largely on individuals. Although this bill provides a framework for handling personal information and ensures that those who do so are properly trained and aware of the legislation, in the end action can only be taken following a complaint from the public. It is therefore highly important that the public is aware of the details of this legislation and of their rights to question information held by government and agencies. I note that in the drawing up of this bill, and I quote -

'a consultative approach was taken involving all government agencies, the local government sector, together with other key stakeholders.'

I also note that there is no reference to consultation with the public, public groups or with individuals. I suggest that there is little point in legislation to protect the public if the public is not aware that it exists. Therefore, Mr President, if this Personal Information Protection Bill becomes law, the next logical step is a prominent education campaign to ensure that Tasmanians are aware of all their rights, especially their right to see personal information held by government and agencies and to correct it if they wish. People must also be well aware of procedures for complaints and their ultimate right to take the complaint to the Ombudsman. But it does seem that the Ombudsman is the end of the line. There is no right of appeal against the finding of the Ombudsman. A suggestion that was made to me was that the complainant should have the right of appeal to a magistrate. Notwithstanding that, I support the bill.