THE lengthy inquiry into privacy law will remain in safe hands until its completion in May, following the decision by Australia’s peak law reform agency to reappoint one of its two full-time members.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has announced the reappointment of Professor Leslie McCrimmon as a full-time member of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC). The A-G labelled McCrimmon as “instrumental” to the Commission’s ongoing review of the Privacy Act 1988.
Having seen the ALRC’s review of Australia’s “complex and costly privacy laws and practices” through the past two years, McCrimmon has been signed up to continue to oversee future enquiries until 30 June 2009.
McCrimmon said he was looking forward to tabling the mammoth inquiry into privacy law, which has been in progress since 31 January 2006.
“This has turned out be the largest ever project undertaken by the ALRC, so that’s been challenging but we’re seeing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel now,” he said of his task.
In a blueprint released in September 2007, the ALRC outlined 301 proposals for overhauling what it described as Australia’s “complex and costly privacy laws and practices”. The cornerstone of the blueprint was a plan to harmonise privacy laws to create “a single set of privacy principles for information-handling across all sectors, and all levels of government”.
Other proposals included introducing a new statutory cause of action for breach of personal privacy, abolishing the fee for “silent” telephone numbers and expanding the enforcement powers of the Privacy Commissioner.
While Attorney-General McClelland has taken a proactive approach to law reform issues since taking office, McCrimmon doesn’t anticipate any great increase in the rate of legislative change under a Labor Government.
“We don’t know at this stage what the next inquiry will be, but I’ll be heading up whatever inquiry next comes from the Attorney-General,” he said.
“Because the work of the commission isn’t really politicised in any way, it doesn’t really matter which party is in power in Canberra. We have had a high implementation record throughout our 30-year career, whether it’s under a Liberal or a Coalition or a Labor government.”
Despite the protracted path of the privacy report, which is due for submission to the Attorney-General in May, McCrimmon will continue to take an active interest in the development of privacy law in Australia.
“I’ll definitely continue to take an interest, it’s a fascinating area and it’s very exciting to be working on an emerging area of law,” McCrimmon said.
“[There have been] privacy challenges as a result of developments in technology, and also the developments of case law around a statutory cause of action for invasion of privacy, so it’s certainly an area that I’ll keep an interest in, having devoted two-and-a-half years of my life to it.”