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Vehicle and Traffic Amendment (Road Vehicle Standards) Bill 2020

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Tags: Roads, Transport, Legislation, Community Safety

Ms O’CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, to be honest, it is hard to get excited about this legislation, but I will have a crack at it.

We will not be opposing the bill. I accept that this is reflecting changes at the Commonwealth level to the compliance arrangements for vehicles that come into the country, that we are going from a physical compliance plate to an electronic register of compliance. The changes are made through our Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999. Isn't that the same legislation where the sneaky regulation that took 430 000 drivers licence photos from Tasmanian drivers without their explicit consent came from? I am pretty sure it was regulations made under the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 with no announcement made. No public announcement about this major change through regulation that saw initially, as we understood it, 410 000 drivers licence photos. That is biometric data for the purpose that it was used. It was sent to a Commonwealth database which at the time that biometric data was sent to a storage space somewhere in Canberra had no federal legislative framework to protect that data. We have since heard from the minister that companies and corporations can have access to that biometric data.

Can the minister confirm that under the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 and the regulations that were slipped through this place, companies like, for example, Transurban in Victoria, companies and corporations can access the database that has our biometric data in it?

This is a slow burner because I am still getting emails from people who are enraged by it. I saw on my Facebook page recently that a video I put up not long afterwards has suddenly got a new life. I do not know why. This is an issue that has sparked anger among Tasmanians who feel that the Government was underhand in the way that it obtained their biometric data and what it did with it subsequently. They are angry because most people know they were not asked; they did not give explicit consent. A number of people know that there was no Commonwealth legislative framework in place to cover that data at the time.

It tells us that the Government, and it was this same minister, knew at the time that this would cause deep concern within the community. They knew it and that is why it was snuck through in regulation. A government that puts out half a dozen media releases on any given day congratulating itself was utterly silent on this mass transfer of the biometric data of Tasmanian drivers. Not a word. In fact, Tasmanians who had had their biometric data taken by the Government had to find out through the Greens questions in budget Estimates. Then it transpired that more than 400 000 photos were transported from Tasmania to the Commonwealth database that had no legislative safety net over the top of it.

In fact, the original Commonwealth legislation that was drafted to protect that data or to cover it in some way was sent back by, I think it was the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, on concerns about privacy. I do not think the legislation that was supposed to be there to capture this mass transfer of data has come back to the federal parliament and perhaps the minister has more information on that, but that is my understanding. It does not instill faith among people when their own Government, by a sneaky regulatory manoeuvre, obtains pictures of my kids. For example, not to personalise this, but this Government took the biometric data of three of my four children who live in Tasmania and transferred them to a Commonwealth database that we understand corporations can access.

As a parent I find that an affront and I know why Tasmanians in the main when they become aware of this are so enraged by it. It is an act of regulatory theft of people's personal data.

Given that we are debating an amendment to the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999, which is the principal act through which that regulation was brought forward that allowed for the sneaky transfer of 430 000 photo licence images, could the minister please update the House on the progress of the Commonwealth legislative framework? Could the minister also confirm, or not, that the database which has been established can be accessed by corporations like Transend because that is our understanding. We believe that to be fact. In the interests of respecting Tasmanians perhaps the minister could update us on the status of that database which we think was established through sneaky regulatory manoeuvre? Tasmanians were simply not asked whether they consented to have their biometric data handed over to some storage cache in Canberra. This minister says, 'It is all fine, we are looking after it, everything is okay.'. People actually do not believe that so perhaps the minister could provide us with an update.