Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category

Media Release: 27th July, 2011: Remove “Big Brother” clause from Privacy Laws, say Democrats

Australian Democrats National President

Remove “Big Brother” clause from Privacy Laws, say Democrats

The existing blanket exclusion for political parties from privacy laws covering databases and the storage of personal information exposes citizens to intrusion, mistreatment and abuse, say the Australian Democrats.

“It’s time for all political parties to be brought into line by the removal of the undemocratic Section 7c of the Privacy Amendment Act 2000,” declared Australian Democrats National President and long-term privacy campaigner, Darren Churchill.

“The Democrats opposed the legislation when it was introduced and Natasha Stott Despoja subsequently introduced a Private Members Bill which was defeated by Liberal and Labor.

“The singular focus of the major parties is on marginal voters in marginal seats – a handful of people. While this is a logical campaign tactic, it makes a mockery of the high democratic principles we hold so dear.

“Exempting political parties and, by default, their allied political activity and organizations from universal privacy principles is a licence to create extensive and intrusive databases with no higher purpose than to sway democracy.

“Section 7c exempts Members of Parliament, contractors, subcontractors and volunteers of political parties from laws covering the collection, storage and use of personal information for political purposes” explained Mr Churchill.

“This is not democracy in action, it is manipulation – it places political parties above other private organisations and is a total invasion of privacy. Our laws have not kept abreast of developments in computer technology”

“When people from the big parties come door-knocking, they know exactly the issues which can change your vote. Not only have they been profiling you, they can add in any privately commissioned poll you may have answered.

“The bloke at the door is not your friendly candidate; he is Big Brother Labor or Big Brother Liberal.”

“Further, these databases risk abuse by anyone the party may choose to give access. This state of affairs erases voter sovereignty.

“No sales representative has the right to a detailed collection of private personal information of potential customers, and nor should political parties.”

“The Australian Democrats have a long history of standing up for privacy issues. We opposed Hawke’s “Australia Card,” Howard’s “Access Card,” and more recently raised privacy concerns (which were echoed by the Privacy Commissioner) on the implementation of Unique Health-Care Identifiers. We opposed Section 7c when in the Senate in 2000, and we’re calling for its removal now.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

National President, Australian Democrats

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 14th June, 2010: Rudd government scared of everyone and everything.



ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 14th June, 2010:

Rudd government scared of everyone and everything.

“First there was the seriously flawed internet filter, that expected ISPs to block web sites on a secret, arbitrary government list. Now there is the equally flawed proposal by the Attorney-General, which expects ISPs to record every web site you visit and keep copies of all your emails”, said ACT Democrats President and Privacy campaigner, Darren Churchill today.

The proposal is modelled on British legislation where telephone and Internet companies are forced to log details of communications for up to two years. But, only details about the date and time of each phone call, or each time a user connects to the Internet, are collected. The content of each communication is not stored.

“The Australian version is much more draconian. It contains no need for an interception warrant, as is required under current law. As far back as 2004, the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) executive director Irene Graham said the that the then Telecommunications Interception Legislation Amendment Bill “would remove all protection on users’ privacy and private e-mails and SMS messages would be easily accessible by government agencies”. And now the government wants to take us either further down this totally illiberal path.” stated Mr Churchill.

“Another major concern is the elimination of restrictions on how long the collected information will be kept by the government agency and to what extent it will be used.”

“Like the Internet filter, the Internet interception won’t work – for the same reasons. The real criminals will use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and encryption to avoid being caught.”

“So, what will the Bill achieve? It will place a massive storage burden on ISPs. It will significantly slow the Internet – on top of the slowing caused by the Internet filter. It will create a vast security problem – every ISP will have to keep these records secure and private, and there will be many copies at many ISPs for hackers to attack. It is a gross invasion of civil liberties and of personal privacy!” declared Mr Churchill.

“The government must explain why they regard this sort of legislation as necessary. If they claim it’s for our protection – then protection from whom? From what? And how do they believe the existing laws don’t do this already?”

Mr Churchill said, “The Democrats call on the Rudd government to stop being Big-Brother – stop treating ordinary, everyday people as if they are criminals. Don’t introduce draconian legislation that won’t even achieve the stated goals. Do the hard yards and find a solution that works without the flaws. And, the Democrats believe that existing legislation can achieve what is required.”

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 26th February, 2010: Proposed police powers laws labelled “Draconian” by Democrats



ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 26th February, 2010:

Proposed police powers laws labelled “Draconian” by Democrats

ACT Democrats President and civil libertarian, Darren Churchill has urged Assembly members to avoid legislating draconian laws when they consider the government’s Crimes (Surveillance Devices) Bill and Serious and Organised Crimes Bill, introduced into the Legislative Assembly yesterday.

News reports yesterday stated that the government had introduced new ACT legislation to give police increased powers in fighting organised crime.

“We don’t want to see a local version of the draconian laws introduced in other States!” Mr Churchill declared.

“There need to be strong safeguards to protect against the misuse of electronic surveillance. Can we be assured that the forms of surveillance mentioned in the legislation will only ever be used with a warrant? And only ever when there is reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime?”

“What guarantees are there that the “Emergency authorisation” provisions under Section 25 of the Crimes (Surveillance Devices) Bill will only ever be used in an emergency – and not just as an excuse to inappropriately assume extra surveillance powers?” questioned Mr Churchill

“Section 35A of the Serious and Organised Crimes Bill creates a new offence of “Affray.” This makes it an offence to threaten someone with unlawful violence or make them fear for their safety.”

“Doesn’t this already exist under the offence of “Assault”? We need to see clarification as to how the interpretation of these offences differs. Or is the government just trying to sound tough?” continued Mr Churchill.

“And surely penalties should be prescribed by the courts, not by legislation.”

“We are also concerned about the ACT Government’s plan to make it illegal to participate in a group which may or may not be labelled as illegal. Under Section 652 of the Serious and Organised Crimes Bill, it says that:

“A person commits an offence if the person—

(c) knows, or ought to have known, that the person’s participation

in the criminal group contributes to criminal activity.”

“I don’t think it is wise to concentrate heavily on membership of groups and the Australian Crime Commission has already said so in a submission to the Federal Government. Focusing on group activity is not an effective way to fight organised crime.”

“Alleged criminals should be charged for an offence they commit as individuals, but it is not right nor appropriate to charge someone for the group they may belong to and the people they associate with.”

“There are serious freedom of association issues at stake here, which echo the anti-bikie laws in other jurisdictions.” warned Mr Churchill

“A properly resourced and increasingly visible police presence would surely be more effective in combating all types of criminal activity, rather than invasive surveillance technology and draconian increases to police powers. The well-intentioned efforts to fight organised crime should not be at a cost of personal freedom. We don’t want to see organised crime legislation become the anti-terror legislation of the new decade.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 25 August, 2009: Privacy Commissioner backs Democrats’ concerns over e-health ID’s




ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 25 August, 2009:

Privacy Commissioner backs Democrats’ concerns over e-health ID’s

“The Federal government must address privacy concerns over it’s national healthcare identity scheme,” says ACT Democrats president and privacy campaigner, Darren Churchill.

Reports in “The Australian”, 25 August 2009 have noted calls from Federal Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis that current laws are inadequate and that specific new legislation is needed to ‘ensure consistency of protections and penalties nationwide.’

“This is exactly the sort of concerns I raised on 1st July, when I called for the government to release the details of it’s Privacy Impact Assessments,” declared a concerned Mr Churchill. “What are they trying to hide?”

“I have had phonecalls and people are concerned about their privacy. But where is the consultation and public discussion about the national healthcare identity scheme? Beyond the industry lobby groups and stakeholders there has been nothing. No consultation with ordinary Australians.” continued Mr Churchill.

“I have publicly raised privacy concerns in July and in a submission in mid-August. So have civil liberties groups. Now the Privacy Commissioner has said she has concerns too. It’s about time the government took notice!”

“Whilst, there is potentially some good to be achieved in facilitating access to medical records to improve patient care. There needs to be a guarantee that it won’t become mandatory to present private personal details in order to access health care services or Medicare benefits.”

“And we need to be clear that there are consistent, uniform and appropriate laws as to who can see the records and when. Those laws should also protect against function creep and guarantee that this is not a backdoor method of introducing a national ID card.” Mr Churchill concluded


Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release 1 July 2009: Democrats raise privacy concerns over national e-health ID





ACT Democrats President

Media Release 1 July 2009:

Democrats raise privacy concerns over national e-health ID

The Australian Democrats have raised privacy concerns over the Unique Healthcare Identifier (UHI) programme being developed by the National E-Health Transition Authority. ACT Australian Democrats president and privacy campaigner, Darren Churchill has called on the federal government to release details of the Privacy Impact Assessments on the scheme.

The Democrats claim the UHI sounds reminiscent of the previous governments attempts to replace the Medicare Card with an Access Card (a defacto national ID card) and want to know details of the privacy issues involved.

“We’re already getting conflicting reports between the Human Services Minister and the health Minister over whether or not the Medicare Card will turn into a smart card or not. And the Privacy Impact Assessments remain a secret. This raises a number of concerns!” declared Mr Churchill

“The concerns the Australian Democrats have are:

· What guarantees are there that the individual has control over who sees their information?

· What guarantees are there that only the medical information a person authorises will be stored?

· What protections are there that only medical information will ever be stored?

· What rights to challenge personal information held in medical databases (accuracy and whether the person wants that information held at all) are put in place?

· How open, accountable transparent and available is a person’s right to know the information held about them?

· And is there a limit on how long information can be held?”

“It’s important that there is means for facilitating access to medical records and there needs to be a guarantee that it won’t become mandatory to present all medical details in order to access health care services or Medicare benefits.” Mr Churchill said.

“Even the best intended privacy legislation will not prevent future governments from increasing the coverage and uses of the card (function creep). It has the potential to become a defacto ID card and could enable peoples’ every movement to be tracked.” Mr Churchill said.

“People also need the right to see their own records, to have access to them and correct them. But we need to be cautious that we don’t allow a situation where anyone with a smart-card scanner can access personal records. So, storing information in a chip on a card is one thing. But a centralised database (or even local and regional systems) is quite another – and with considerable risks, including the possibility of identity theft” Mr Churchill cautioned.

“What is the government trying to hide? The details of the first two Privacy Impact Assessments reports should be made available for public comment. As should the third report which has already been commissioned.” Mr Churchill concluded.


Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

Tel: 0412 196 473