20 June 2012 First round of amendments to the Privacy Act introduced into Parliament


On 23 May 2012, the Commonwealth Government introduced its legislation to implement the first stage of its reforms to Australia's privacy laws.  The Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill was introduced into Parliament after a lengthy consultation and review process, by the Australian Law Reform Commission, the government and a number of Senate committees.  We have previously written about the proposals for change.

This is the first stage of the Government's responses to 197 of the ALRC's 295 recommendations on changes to Australian privacy law and practice.

The Bill if implemented will do the following:

  1. Create a unified set of Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) that will act as a single set of rules applying to Commonwealth agencies and private sector organisations.  The APPs will replace the National Privacy Principles (NPPs) for the private sector and the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) for the public sector.
  2. Improved privacy protections in the credit reporting provisions to ensure greater logical consistency, simplicity and clarity throughout the Act.  A key feature of the provisions will allow credit providers access to additional personal information to assist them in establishing an individual's credit worthiness.
  3. Greater powers granted to the Privacy Commissioner to create and register codes that are in the public interest in relation to privacy and credit reporting.  These codes will be binding on specified agencies and organisations.
  4. Increase and clarify the functions and powers of the Privacy Commissioner, including strengthening powers to resolve complaints.
  5. Businesses dealing with health related information will also be held to a higher standard.
  6. An ability to make a complaint directly to the Commissioner, without first having to complain to the business concerned.

Ultimately, the amendments seek to provide greater clarity in relation to privacy obligations of organisations and provide increased safeguards for consumers in relation to the use of personal information, particularly for direct marketing or unsolicited purposes.

If the Bill is approved by both Houses of Parliament, the amendments may come into effect in 2013.

The government will then commence on the second phase of amendments, dealing with some of the more contentious issues raised by the ALRC, including mandatory reporting of breaches, and a cause of action for breach of privacy.

We will continue to monitor the passage of the amendments, and the government's plans for further changes, but if you have any specific questions please contact Swaab Attorneys.

Co-authored by M Hall.

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This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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