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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 7 April 2016) . . Page.. 1273 ..

I have listened to, and I understand, all of the grounds that have been considered and must be considered by a magistrate in order to grant this authority to conduct surveillance. However, the issue that has been brought to my attention is the fear that workers might face should an employer use an employee’s lack of knowledge of their rights under this legislation about the requirements under this legislation to conduct surveillance and that that might be used as an opportunity to frighten an employee into thinking that they could be spied on outside work.

I briefly spoke to Mr Rattenbury yesterday, and I acknowledge the amendment that he will be bringing forward to this bill today. I am not sure that these concerns that have been raised with me will be dealt with by this amendment. However, I am pleased that there will be a review that will take place in two years, and I will personally ensure that the use of this particular power will be given full consideration by this place.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Corrections, Minister for Education, Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs and Minister for Road Safety) (12.02), in reply: The amendments in the Workplace Privacy Amendment Bill 2016 implement the recommendations of the government’s review of the Workplace Privacy Act 2011, which I tabled in the Assembly on 18 February this year. The review report, informed by tailored engagement with stakeholders, examined activity under the act since its commencement and determined legislative reforms that will improve its operation without unreasonably impinging on a worker’s right to privacy.

To implement the recommendations of the review, the bill makes four significant changes to the Workplace Privacy Act 2011, with some consequential amendments to the Magistrates Court Act and the Work Health and Safety Act. Firstly, the bill allows work health and safety inspectors to exercise their existing functions in respect of workplace privacy matters. This change re-characterises workplace privacy as an industrial matter and will provide regulation, enforcement and monitoring by WorkSafe ACT.

Second, in view of the practical needs of industry stakeholders, the bill eases notification requirements for GPS tracking in limited circumstances. Presently under the act, an employer may only conduct surveillance that involves tracking a vehicle or other object if the vehicle or object displays a clearly visible notice of its tracking capability. This bill provides that the notice need not be affixed to the item, provided appropriate notification has been otherwise given. This allows the use of tracking devices such as a smartphone when it can otherwise be unduly difficult to affix a notice to the object.

Thirdly, the bill allows an employer to apply to the Magistrates Court for an authority to conduct covert surveillance of an employee when they are outside the workplace. Presently the act provides a means by which an employer may apply for an authority to conduct covert surveillance within the workplace. This amendment reflects the review’s finding that without a means to allow covert surveillance outside the workplace an employer’s ability to defend legal proceedings against them may be adversely affected.

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