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Australian Crime Commission Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018 - Second Reading

Parliamentary Activity - Tuesday, 18 September 2018, Rosalie Woodruff MP


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, the Australian Crime Commission legislation went through the Australian Parliament in 2016. It was the second bill to merge the activities of an entity into the Australian Crime Commission. The first entity to be merged was the Australian Institute of Criminology. The bill before us is the result of 2014 National Commission of Audit recommendations that CrimTrac be merged with the ACC to 'better harness their collective resources and better support law enforcement operations by the Australian Federal Police and other Commonwealth and state agencies'.

The bill before us today enables the Australian Crime Commission legislation to take force within our jurisdiction. Other reviews that considered whether CrimTrac and the ACC should merge did not recommend that this occur. CrimTrac, which was established in 2000 under an intergovernmental agreement between Commonwealth and state and territory governments, was established to collect law enforcement information from around the country and make it accessible to all Australian police and other law enforcement agencies. The services that CrimTrac provides include police reference and information services, national fingerprint matching, national DNA matching, national child offender services, a national cyber crime reporting network, a missing persons and victims system, national police checks, a ballistics identification network and the national domestic violence order information sharing system.

CrimTrac has been self-funding, receiving its income from criminal history checks. That income accrues in the national policing information system national account. Tens of millions of dollars are held by CrimTrac in that account, which was earmarked for future technology upgrades for CrimTrac.

The federal government merged CrimTrac out of existence. There is a view that other legislative mechanisms could have formalised its oversight and information-sharing provisions that would have retained the integrity of CrimTrac and satisfied some of the concerns about the merger.

Those concerns relate to the privacy of Australians and consequently this bill has significant implications to the privacy of Tasmanians.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner made a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee on the first proposal of the merger between CrimTrac and the Australian Crime Commission. It said:

It is not apparent to me why it is necessary to remove the information currently held by CrimTrac from the protections, oversight and enforcement arrangements in the Privacy Act.

Given the volume and sensitivity of the information currently held by CrimTrac, I am of the view that there would need to be cogent reasons for exempting that information, and the activities associated with it, from the Privacy Act entirely.

I consider that the objectives of the regime could be met, while at the same time retaining the protections and oversight offered by the Privacy Act.

The Australian Crime Commission Act exempts massive amounts of sensitive information from the Privacy Act. These include missing persons' data, criminal records, DNA profiles of victims and offenders and the fingerprint and palm images collected by police for a variety of reasons.

Reassurances that there will still be oversight by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Australian Ombudsman for law enforcement and integrity clearly do not go far enough.

The then Acting Australian Information Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, pointed out in his submission that the proposed privacy safeguards are not enforceable and could be changed without needing to go through parliament. Mr Pilgrim also noted that the Crime Commission would not be forced to grant access to or correct an individual's personal information and data. He notes that the provisions through existing state and territory police forces do exist in some jurisdictions but rightly points out jurisdictions have inconsistent privacy legislation.

Can the minister please provide advice about the relationship between the Privacy Act in Tasmania and its jurisdictional reach with regard to the issues raised by the Australian Information Commissioner about privacy, especially whether there will be a step-down in protection of privacy for Tasmanian citizens with the merger of CrimTrac and the Australian Crime Commission? The issues I have raised before are about people's ability to change their personal information and data that will now be held by the Australian Crime Commission.

Importantly, the possibility of data being disclosed in missing persons' cases where someone has exercised their right to go missing for legitimate and sometimes personal safety reasons. It is important for adults to have the right, their own free choice, not to associate with family and friends. There are many reasons people may choose to do this but it is particularly likely when an individual may have been subjected to a violent or harmful environment and they seek to remove themselves from the influence of those people.

The Australian Information Commissioner said in the submission that if the bill is enacted, the Privacy (Persons Reported as Missing) Rule 2014 would no longer apply to the personal information currently held by CrimTrac; national policing information. The Australian Crime Commission would not be obliged by the rule to respect any known wishes of persons reported as missing when using or disclosing information about them. I ask the minister to provide some advice specifically in relation to the issue of missing persons and their ability to stay missing if that is their choice.

The Greens have been on the record for years with our concern around the mission creep of the Australian Crime Commission. These concerns are those of the Australian Greens and the Tasmanian Greens, and the Information Commissioner has echoed the concerns raised by numbers of civil liberty groups around the country, amongst others. The Australian Institute of Criminology and the Australian Crime Commission merger that occurred is a subsequent merger of CrimTrac into the Australian Crime Commission. Our concerns are that it represents more of takeover than a merger in which the interests of both parties are not being equally met. The interest of the Australian Crime Commission to keep hold of people's private and personal information without them being able to access it or change incorrect information is deeply concerning. We would like to hear the minister's response to those concerns.

Given this is a bill that has passed the federal Parliament and is now in the process of being rolled out in the jurisdictions, we will support the basis for this amendment bill here today. We are very concerned and would like an answer to the question of privacy, particularly around things like fingerprints and facial recognition information. That is an exploding area of technology and an equally exploding area of valid concerns for citizens who want to retain their privacy, their personal information, and have control over it.