The incoherence of Australia’s recognition of privacy as a human right is demonstrated by the idiosyncratic nature of privacy statutes across the states and territories, the weakness of Commonwealth law in the absence of a justiciable Bill of Rights, and regulatory incapacity on the part of watchdogs such as the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. It is puzzling, for example, that New South Wales and Victoria have enhanced their information privacy statutes (albeit while weakening the state privacy commissioners) and sought to establish technology-neutral legislation regarding surveillance devices but South Australia has yet to provide statutory protection for information privacy.
Discrepancies in protection are highlighted in the consultation by the ACT government, concluding this month, about ‘civil surveillance regulation’. That consultation centred on an issues paper for the government by Daniel Stewart of the ANU College of Law regarding private sector surveillance in the Territory. It follows establishment of the Workplace Privacy Act 2011 (ACT) and the Information Privacy Act 2014 (ACT). The latter statute represented a step forward, with a discrete information privacy regime for the Territory beyond the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).