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Privacy Commission finds serious flaws in Bill

8 November 2007
Privacy Commission finds serious flaws in Immigration Bill

Green Party MP Keith Locke has applauded the Privacy Commissioner for
her forthright submission on the Immigration Bill, and for her finding
that the Bill has given 'insufficient respecting privacy
within the necessary processes."

"The Privacy Commissioner has issued a damning appraisal confirming
Green concerns that the Bill allows too much information in immigration
cases to be kept secret," Mr Locke says.

"In her submission, the Commissioner says that over the past year, her
Office has consistently expressed serious concerns in three main areas :
the use of undisclosed classified personal information, the collection
and widespread use of biometric information without explicit privacy
safeguards and the sharing of personal information across a potentially
wide range of agencies. These three privacy concerns, the Commissioner
states, are still 'pressing and substantial within the Bill as

"The Government cannot ignore the serious issues raised by the Privacy
Commissioner. We can't allow the sweeping powers given by the Bill to
the CEO of any government agency to be the arbiter of what is classified
information. The Commissioner is justly concerned that any CEO may
refuse disclosure ( about any operation affecting any function of any
agency ) to people affected by decisions based on this secret
information, and the Bill also removes the Commissioner's power to
intervene as a check and a balance.

"We agree with the Commissioner that the use of undisclosed classified
personal information about an individual - affecting their detention and
deportation - is in conflict with basic legal rights. We also agree with
her misgivings about the limitations on the summaries of secret
information to be provided to those affected : 'In essence,' the
Commission says, 'no balance has been struck between the requirements of
privacy and those of security.'

"Such sweeping powers have no place in a modern democracy. Months ago,
the Government boasted that its legislation will accord with
international best practice. This Bill plainly fails that test. In its
submission, the Privacy Commissioner points to misgivings that British
and Canadian parliamentary committees have expressed about the workings
of the special advocate system, one of the alleged safeguards for
individual rights contained in the Bill. The Commission also rightly
questions the breadth of powers to collect biometric information, and
the lack of security around its use.

"Faced with this level of criticism from one of the key watchdogs in our
system of civil liberties, the Government must recognize - as it did
with its Electoral Finance Bill - the need for major change to the
legislation over the coming months," Mr Locke says.

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