The scope of the Inquiry

Terms of Reference

1.16 The Terms of Reference, reproduced at the beginning of this Report, direct the ALRC to focus on the extent to which the Privacy Act and related laws continue to provide an effective framework for the protection of privacy in Australia. Four factors relevant to the decision to initiate the Inquiry were identified:

  • rapid advances in information, communication, storage, surveillance and other relevant technologies;
  • possible changing community perceptions of privacy and the extent to which privacy should be protected by legislation;
  • the expansion of state and territory legislative activity in areas relevant to privacy; and
  • emerging areas that may require privacy protection.

1.17 During the course of the Inquiry, the ALRC was asked to consider:

  • relevant existing and proposed Commonwealth, state and territory laws and practices;
  • other recent reviews of the Privacy Act;
  • current and emerging international law and obligations in the privacy area;
  • privacy regimes, developments and trends in other jurisdictions;
  • any relevant constitutional issue;
  • the need of individuals for privacy protection in an evolving technological environment;
  • the desirability of minimising the regulatory burden on business in the privacy area; and
  • any other related matter.

1.18 The ALRC was asked to identify and consult with relevant stakeholders, including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), relevant state and territory bodies and the Australian business community, as well as to ensure widespread public engagement with the Inquiry.

1.19 The Terms of Reference initially specified that the ALRC deliver the final Report to the Attorney-General by 31 March 2008. On 24 January 2008, the ALRC formally requested an extension, occasioned partly by the size and complexity of the Inquiry, but mainly by the difficulty stakeholders were experiencing in providing submissions on DP 72 in a timely fashion.[25] In a letter dated 11 February 2008, the Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP, agreed to extend the reporting date for the Inquiry to 30 May 2008.

[25] Approximately 200 submissions were received by the ALRC after the 7 December 2007 closing date for submissions on DP 72. In particular, the federal election held in November 2007 made it difficult for some federal agencies to provide their submissions by the closing date.