In the blizzard of global publicity over the hacking of erotic celebrity photos, proposals for historic changes to Australian privacy laws seem to have been lost.
With little fanfare the Australian Law Reform Commission has acknowledged the need to protect individuals from serious invasions of digital privacy.
The ALRC wants a new Commonwealth Act to cover cases when a serious privacy invasion has been intentionally committed with the potential to cause actual or emotional damage.
The recommendations deal with the physical intrusion of a plaintiff's private space by watching, listening to, or recording private activities and the collection and disclosure of a person’s private information.
Under the proposed laws courts would order compensation for affected individuals, if proceedings are initiated within 12 months of a breach’s discovery.
There would be exceptions to allow the media to engage in “responsible journalism relating to matters of public concern and importance”.
But most significantly the ALRC has put giant internet companies on notice, removing their exclusion from prosecution. The sun seems to be setting on the “safe harbor days” for the likes of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and YouTube. The commission advises these companies will be liable if they have knowledge of a serious invasion of privacy. Web intermediaries would be prosecuted if “they are reasonably able to stop the invasion of privacy, but they choose not to do so”.
It’s one thing to have new Commonwealth Laws in order to deal with crimes in the digital era but the resources needed for this enforcement are by no means guaranteed, if the Federal opposition is to be believed. Shadow Justice Minister David Feeney claims the Abbot Government’s axing of $11.7 million dollars from the Australian Federal Police budget has seriously compromised the AFP’s ability to tackle organised crime, high tech crime, drug trafficking, major fraud, money laundering and terrorism. He says the cuts have jeopardised more than 300 AFP jobs and include the scrapping of $42.5 million allocated by the former Labor Government for the funding of additional sworn officers. It will be interesting to see if this week's global escalation of the terrorism threat will loosen Canberra's purse strings.
CAN HAZZARD PRACTICE HIS PREACH?
So Attorney General Brad Hazzard has told a McKell Institute lunch he wants to take a “moderate, sensible, realistic” approach to the law and order issues? But his want and that of Premier Mike Baird have already proven to be in glaring conflict. There was nothing vaguely resembling “moderate, sensible and realistic” about the Baird Government’s knee-jerk response to ill-informed attacks on the new Bail Act. Hazzard kept a straight face while declaring his vision to a roomful of lawyers who were too polite to remind him that nothing came of his proposals to overhaul the state’s planning laws by the time he left the Planning portfolio.
I am told senior NSW police are concerned about the loss of experienced, respected officers thanks to vexatious “bullying complaints” from “lazy” junior cops. There is one local area command in Sydney’s south, which is apparently notorious for seeing-off any new commander who tries to crack the whip. All allegations of “bullying” have to be investigated, and in recent weeks a highly-regarded superintendent was forced to take “sick leave” after complaints about his disciplinary approach to staff management.
BLOKES GIVE SEX SLAVERY THE SERVE IT DESERVES
It’s great to see Australian men doing their bit to help fight the $31 billion industry involving the exploitation of more than 27 million people in prostitution and pornography every year. In Thailand alone up to 40 per cent of an estimated 200,000 sex workers are children and now badly needed funds to fight these appalling realities will be raised in the national 24-hour Ping Pong-A-Thon. The organisers say: “Men are a huge part of the problem when it comes to sexual exploitation, but seem to be under-represented when it comes to taking action or being part of the solution.” The Ping-Pong-A-Thon will be held in October and November in 25 locations around Australia.
"He's got a very good tactical mind and is good with strategy ... great advocacy and comes to grips with the evidence."