THE NSW Law Reform Commission has released a consultation paper setting out a number of proposed reforms to the state’s privacy legislation.
The consultation paper forms part of an inquiry into whether the state’s existing legislation provides an effective framework for the protection of the privacy of the individual. It coincides with an inquiry into federal privacy laws being undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
Specifically, the NSW Commission was asked to consider the desirability of having uniform national privacy principles, of having a consistent legislative approach to privacy in various pieces of legislation that deal with privacy issues and of introducing a statutory tort of privacy.
According to the paper, the state’s current privacy legislation — particularly the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) — is “unnecessarily convoluted” and considerable uncertainty exists about how the various pieces of legislation interact with each other. This excessive complexity, the paper found, is undermining the effectiveness of the state’s privacy protection law.
The paper proposes several key reforms to simplify and improve the effectiveness of the state’s privacy regime.
It recommends transferring the handling of health information by private sector organisations to the Commonwealth, and potentially merging the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW) into the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW).
It also proposes limiting the exemptions that currently exist in the legislation (which the commission says run for several pages), particularly the exemptions to the definition of “personal information”, and it proposes ways of reducing inconsistencies and duplication between the various pieces of legislation.
Further, it proposes reforms to help facilitate information sharing between agencies to improve the provision of service to vulnerable people, particularly in child protection.
Submissions on the paper can be made until 17 October.