Page 4001 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 October 1991

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Mr Connolly: I am not sure what to make of that threat, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Order! In parliamentary terms, Mr Connolly, for your education that was a warning.

Computerised Information on Constituents

MR STEVENSON: My question, which is directed to the Chief Minister, relates to the television program Four Corners on the ABC last night, which carried a story titled "Big Brother Down Under". The story revealed that politicians and political parties have been using telephone or written surveys to collect details on constituents' concerns to go in computer files. These computerised details were then used to create letters to constituents, mirroring those constituents' concerns. One example was of a woman who changed her intended vote after she received a letter mirroring a particular concern that she had about the environment, which was information taken from earlier contact with her. The deception was revealed when it was shown that the same politician was also sending standard letters of support to the other side as well - in this case, those in favour of logging. So, the first part of the question is: Has the Labor Party computerised personal replies from constituents, which link any of their concerns with their names and addresses? The second part is: Has the Labor Party used, or does it intend to use, this personal information to generate computerised letters to send to constituents suggesting the support of their concerns by the Labor Party?

MR SPEAKER: Mr Stevenson, I believe that that question is out of order. I do not believe that it is appropriate for the Chief Minister to answer that, unless she so desires.

MS FOLLETT: Mr Speaker, it is the only reasonable question that we have had all day. I had anticipated it being asked, so I am happy to respond to it. Like other members, I share Mr Stevenson's concern about the Four Corners program on computer databases. I have been very concerned about possible breaches of privacy, the extent of data gathering in our society generally, and the abuse, whether actual or potential, of personal information.

Mr Speaker, I can confirm that my party makes use of computerised name and address information from the electoral roll, and that information is provided by the Australian Electoral Commission under the provisions of the ACT Electoral Act. It was used by the Labor Party to personalise letters sent to voters in the last ACT election campaign and on a very small handful of occasions since.

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