[LINK] Too hard to pry, say private eyes
rene.lk at libertus.net
Wed Mar 2 13:42:01 EST 2005
On Wed, 02 Mar 2005 09:23:34 +1100, Bernard Robertson-Dunn wrote:
> Too hard to pry, say private eyes
> Australian Financial Review
> 2 March 2005
> Rachel Lebihan
> Private detectives, debt collectors and credit checkers could soon be a
> dying breed because of Australia's penchant for privacy.
> Where they once had stashes of personal information at their disposal
> from electoral rolls and other public records, privacy concerns are
> slowly shutting off these avenues of inquiry.
> As a result, millions of dollars in fraud and bad debt are going
> unchecked. In the six years to 2002, $22.4billion was written off in
> bad debt by companies.
Notwithstanding the claim in the article, that figure has nothing to do
with the effect of privacy laws.
The Australian Institute of Private Detectives states in its Dec 2004
submission to the Federal Privacy Commissioner's review of the C'th
Privacy Act, that the figures were "obtained from the Taxation Statistics
available on the ATO's website". The AIPD submission quotes figures for
1996/97 and 2001/02 and I found that the below ATO document contains the
figures for the intervening years:
That says company bad debts were:
1996/97 2,083,357,778 (that's slightly higher than in AIPD subm)
2001/2002 5,823,415,533 (that's same as in AIPD subm)
Now, the private sector amendments to the C'th Privacy Act did not become
operative until 21 Dec 2001. So why were bad debts nearly as high in the
year ended June 2000 as in the year ended June 2002? Whatever the reason,
it wasn't because of the privacy laws because they weren't operative then.
The AIPD wants basically the same powers as police and court orders to
gain access to personal information held by businesses and government
agencies. They took the Federal Privacy Commissioner to court last year
because he/she allegedly refused to issue a public interest determination
granting private detectives such powers:
Australian Institute of Private Detectives Ltd v Privacy Commissioner
 FCA 1440 (5 November 2004)
"...2 The Institute claims to be aggrieved because the Privacy Act
1988 (Cth) ('Privacy Act') effectively prevents 'organisations' (a defined
term) divulging certain kinds of information that the members of the
Institute apparently wish to obtain on behalf of their clients. The
Institute has sought to address this grievance by claiming declaratory
relief against the respondent ('the Commissioner').
39 The result is that the present proceedings do not involve a
'matter' within the meaning of s 39B(1A)(c) of the Judiciary Act.
Accordingly, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the Institute's
41 The Commissioner's motion succeeds. The application must be
dismissed. The Institute must pay the Commissioner's costs. ..."
Furthermore, according to the AIPD the private detective industry in NSW
is now more prone to corruption than it was about 6 months ago due to new
laws enacted in NSW.
PI fury at bill to give control to police, Alex Mitchell, State Political
Reporter, SMH, 15 Aug 2004
"Private detectives have launched a stinging attack on the NSW
Government's legislation handing control of the private investigations
industry to the NSW police.
They have written to Police Minister John Watkins saying the
industry will be plagued with issues of conflict of interest, potential
corruption and collusion if the police are put in charge of licensing and
Australian Institute of Private Detectives president John Bracey
said the 1992 report by the Independent Commission Against Corruption
stated categorically that the police should not have any role in
overseeing private investigators."
A quick look at NSW Hansard indicates the 'NSW Commercial Agents and
Private Inquiry Agents Act 2004' was not amended to address AIPD's
> "Privacy has consumed everyone," Rumore says. "Ten times a day people
> say to me: 'I can't tell you that because of privacy', and nine times
> out of that 10 there's nothing under the Privacy Act stopping them. But
> they either don't know that or are using it as an excuse."
Indeed. It's also the AIPD's latest excuse/reason for their lobbying to
get the same type of intrusive powers as police.
More information about the Link