Media Release: Albanese Government must act urgently on the Coalition’s online privacy reforms 

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Senator Sarah Henderson, Shadow Minister for Communications
Julian Leeser MP, Shadow Attorney-General

Since July, the Opposition has been calling on the Albanese Government to continue the former Coalition Government’s work to urgently strengthen Australia’s online privacy laws.

As part of the Coalition’s extensive review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), we identified the urgent need to enact tougher online privacy and data protection laws, releasing a draft bill for consultation which included new consumer rights to prevent the use or disclosure of personal information.

While we welcome the comments by the Attorney-General today that he intends to bring forward amendments to the Privacy Act by the end of this year or early next year, we are disappointed that our earlier calls for action fell on deaf ears. We call on the government to act immediately and introduce these amendments in the next sitting of Parliament.

It should not have taken the cyberattack on Optus to wake up this government. The protection of Australians’ personal information online must be a high priority for the Albanese Government.

The Coalition’s Privacy Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Online Privacy and Other Measures) Bill 2021 (Online Privacy Bill), released as an exposure draft, would require social media companies, data brokerage companies and large online platforms (with at least 2.5 million end users in Australia) including Telstra and Optus to:

  • consider the best interests of the child when handling the personal information of children including obtaining parental consent;
  • obtain fully informed consent to use personal information; and
  • cease using or disclosing personal information upon request.

The Coalition’s Online Privacy Bill also provides substantially increased fines of up to $10 million for serious, repeated breaches of the Privacy Act and enhanced enforcement measures, fines which have been backed by the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Needless to say, if these amendments had been prioritised by the Albanese Government, Optus customers would have had greater rights to stop the use or disclosure of their personal information.

While the Online Privacy Bill may need further amendment as a result of extensive consultation conducted by the Attorney-General’s Department under the Coalition, most of the work has been done and the government has no excuse not to act immediately.

We reiterate there is no case for telecommunications companies to be exempt from tougher online privacy laws as Optus argued in its submission on the bill.

The Coalition, when in government, introduced world leading online safety laws which included reining in the power of the big tech and social media platforms.

As the rapid transformation of our digital economy continues, it is critical that our laws continue to be updated to ensure the online protection and safety of all Australians.

29 September 2022

Media enquiries: Jodie | 0497 859 979

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