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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 2 Hansard (18 February) . .

Page.. 606..


Workplace Privacy Amendment Bill 2016

Mr Rattenbury, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Corrections, Minister for Education, Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs and Minister for Road Safety) (12.02): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Today I am tabling the report on the review of the Workplace Privacy Act and presenting the Workplace Privacy Amendment Bill 2016.

The Workplace Privacy Act, which was passed in February 2011, required a review of its operation as soon as practicable after the end of the first year of operation. The review report, informed by targeted stakeholder consultation and feedback, considers the operation of the act to date and identifies legislative changes that will improve its operation without unreasonably impinging on a worker's right to privacy.

The review, in general terms, makes the following findings. The first is that the prohibition of surveillance in specified "non-work areas" within the workplace remains appropriate. The second is that the absolute prohibition on surveillance of workers outside the workplace can adversely affect the capacity of employers to effectively manage legal proceedings against them. Third, the review report notes that to require employers to place notices on all tracking devices can be problematic, especially in relation to smart phones. Finally, the review concludes that regulation, enforcement and monitoring functions under the act might better be characterised as a civil matter rather than as a matter for the police. The review also notes the low level of activity under the act since it commenced, with no formal complaints reported and only one application being made for covert surveillance in the workplace. The review proposes a number of amendments to the act.

Taking account of stakeholder concerns relating to prohibited surveillance, the government proposes to amend the act to allow employers to apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant to undertake surveillance outside the workplace, with the requirement that consideration be given to criteria similar to those for covert surveillance within the workplace.

In relation to notice requirements for tracking devices, the review recommends that the government consider possible amendments to the act to remove the liability of employers where appropriate alternative notification has been taken in relation to devices, such as smart phones, to which it may be difficult to attach a notice.

Finally, in relation to monitoring, the review proposes that amendments be made to section 45 of the act to require the relevant directorate to report in its annual report about any covert surveillance authorisations issued by the Magistrates Court.


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