The NSW Privacy commissioner Dr Elizabeth Coombs addressed the issue of privacy during her lecture on Wednesday 21 September at the Sydney offices of Affinity Intercultural Foundation.

There has been great anxiety in the community regarding the on-line census data collection that was considered very elaborate and thorough. Moreover, the technological hitches and breakdown of the system during the Census night marred the reputation of ABS.

The formal collection period of the 2016 Census closed on 24 September. The Census will help distribute government funds and plan services the community.

Part of the Affinity Lecture Series, the topic of Dr Coombs lecture was “What’s happening ~or not~ in privacy”, where she elaborated on the right to privacy and addressed concern from the audience on the security of the data collected in the 2016 census.

Before the commencement of the lecture, the audience were welcomed by Emeritus Professor Alan Knight from UTS Affinity Advisory Board member. The speaker was introduced by Professor Michael Adams from UWS.

Dr Coombs referred to the Universal declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that include the rights to privacy.

“The right to privacy is also established in international conventions such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities”, she said.

She further added “ Recognising that Affinity seeks to nurture interfaith and intercultural learning, and to help build personal relationships between people of diverse faiths and backgrounds, I make the point that privacy is also integral to many faiths and for some worshippers, privacy is essential if they are to have freedom of worship and to be able to practice their faith safely”.

The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights of 1981 has at Section 22 the right to privacy and the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, also includes the right to privacy.

“NSW Privacy law, and there are two Acts – the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act, 1998 and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act, 2002, provide important privacy protections for NSW citizens in certain circumstances but I stress these are by no means comprehensive protections”, Dr Coombs admitted.

In conclusion, she stated:

Privacy is a fundamental human right worthy of legal protection.

› There is public interest in protecting privacy.

› Privacy enables other rights such as freedom of expression, and is a means to secure beneficial outcomes for society.

› Privacy protection is a shared responsibility of individuals and organisations, as well as government and the Parliament.

› Australian privacy law should:

– Meet international standards.

– Be adaptable to technological change.

– Be clear, certain, coherent and consistent

– Be accessible to citizens irrespective of financial status.