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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (27 March) . . Page.. 693 ..


Debate resumed from 21 February 1996, on motion by Ms Follett:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Training) (11.51): Whilst the Government has reservations over the effectiveness and timing of the Fair Trading (Amendment) Bill 1996, the Government will support the passage of this Bill, for ultimately we share the same concerns over issues of privacy and consumer protection. It is in the legislative approach that we differ from the Opposition, Mr Speaker. The Government considers smart cards to represent a small but significant part of the technological changes occurring in our society. Arguably, it is an element of the information technology revolution. But this information technology revolution has implications for privacy of individuals and freedom of consumer choice.

In the present and in the future, as information about consumers and individuals is collated from the daily transactions they make, we shall have to address the privacy implications that arise from the collection of this data and the ramifications for control and manipulation of the consumer market. Information collected exists in electronic form which is rapidly transmittable across State and Territory borders and vast distances overseas. Likewise, the technology enabling smart card transactions themselves transcends borders and jurisdictions. For example, it is quite feasible that private information about the use of a smart card by an ACT resident may be downloaded to a database in New South Wales and disclosed in any number of Australian jurisdictions or overseas. Whilst the Bill purports to have extraterritorial effect to cover these situations, I am advised by the Attorney-General's Department that there will be "significant evidentiary difficulties" in trying to prove these disclosures.

Further, I am advised that the Bill may lack application where an ACT resident uses a smart card which has been issued or encoded in another jurisdiction in a transaction outside the ACT. The Bill will not be able to protect ACT residents in those circumstances. Clearly, Mr Speaker, these problems require a national solution, with nationally uniform legislation to ensure that there are no gaps in protection. The Government is already pursuing this course of action and, in fact, raised the issue of a national approach at the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs on 4 August last year.

Again, I want to highlight the difference in our approach to the issue of smart cards. Crucial to our approach is the development of a coherent legislative response, which cannot, I emphasise, be properly formulated while the results of the trial remain unknown. For this reason, we regard the Bill as somewhat premature, as we are not in a position to fully consider all the protective measures that consumers and individuals need.

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