Senate seeks new GDPR regime

James Riley
Editorial Director

The Senate has passed a Greens motion calling on the government to bring Australia’s “woefully inadequate” privacy laws into line with Europe’s incoming GDPR rules.

The motion was moved by Greens senator Jordon Steele-John, and called on the Senate to acknowledge that the GDPR represents “current best practice” for the protection of data, and to push the government to “consider the impact of Australia’s insufficient and outdated privacy laws on all Australians, including children and young people”.

It also called on the government to the GDPR as a “potential model for privacy protections for all Australians”.

Jordon Steele-John: The senator wants a privacy upgrade to match the GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation will come into effect in Europe in late May, and applies to all companies that hold data within the EU or as a result of doing business with citizens of the EU.

“The GDPR represents current best practice regarding standards for the protection of data, as it is consent-based and gives individuals the rights of access, erasure and transfer of their personal data,” the Greens motion said.

The motion was passed without the need of a vote by the Senate on Thursday afternoon after Labor agreed to support it. This marked a backflip for the Opposition, which had previously voted against a similar motion calling for amendments to the Privacy Act in March.

The recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal have had an impact on Labor’s approach to data security, and the urgency for reforms to the Privacy Act.

Senator Steele-John said the Senate’s support of the motion was a step in the right direction.

“I am heartened that the Senate has now back-flipped on their earlier position and supported, in principle, a move towards the European standard of online privacy protection and current world best practice,” he said.

“Our privacy laws are woefully inadequate and the argument that Australians don’t care and are agreeing to sign away their privacy simply by engaging in online interactions is simply not good enough.

“Under current Australian law, the government’s agenda of surveillance, and the rise of surveillance capitalism, young people might never be able to exercise their right to privacy and live their lives free from surveillance and communications interference.”

He said that the Privacy Act needs to be updated quickly to address current concerns surrounding data protection.

“There is need for urgent review of privacy regulations in Australia, including the collection, storage and use of personal information by government, corporations and other entities particularly with respect to its impact on the integrity of our democracy,” Senator Steele-John said.

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