Hans Lovejoy, editor
On July 12, it became mandatory for all businesses and workplaces in NSW to use the Service NSW Check-in tool (QR code).
A tacit agreement among (most of) the population is that contact tracing is vital in keeping COVID-19 suppressed while the government rolls vaccines out (Is it a race? Yes it is, SloMo).
Apart from the government asking the population to act as its defacto regulator/enforcer, there’s also legitimate concerns about the privacy of individuals’ data with the QR code.
There was, for example, the Service NSW hack in February this year; 30,000 residents were ‘unaware their private information was compromised’ (www.news.com.au).
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, a not-for-profit group of lawyers that oversees legislation, is calling on the NSW Government ‘to enact laws to ensure that data provided for contact tracing can’t be used for anything else’.
They say, ‘In WA, police have already accessed contact tracing data during criminal investigations on two occasions, prompting the WA Government to urgently pass legislation ensuring that contact tracing information can only be used and disclosed for contact tracing and related purposes’.
‘Meanwhile, the Victorian and Qld state governments have confirmed the police can access data from their respective COVID-19 QR code check-in apps with a warrant. In fact, the Qld police have already done so’.
Indeed, there’s little evidence from any state or federal government that they are interested in maintaining our privacy.
According to the NSW government: ‘The data captured by the Service NSW COVID Safe check-in is only used for the purposes of contact tracing by NSW Health. It is deleted after 28 days’.
With what oversight? Where’s the legislation supporting this claim?
COVID Safe demands upon business and citizens, and the penalties for non-compliance, fall under NSW public health orders.
According to legal expert and academic at UNSW, Professor George Williams, these orders carry the force of law.
He told the NSW Council for Civil Liberties that, ‘A particular challenge with public health orders is that governments have been sometimes given the power to make these without the possibility of disallowance by Parliament’.
‘This gives rise to a democratic deficit and a risk of overreach.
‘However, it’s important to remember that these restrictions and controls are themselves designed to promote human rights, including the right to life. If our governments did not impose restrictions, and so left people vulnerable to the virus, that would be a major human rights failing of the government’.
Professor George Williams also pointed to a recent federal government inquiry that looked at improving parliamentary oversight of delegated legislation.
Delegated legislation, according to the Parliament of Australia, ‘is law made by a person or body other than Parliament (such as the Governor-General or a minister), under authority granted to that person or body by the Parliament’.
The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation suggested 11 recommendations, yet only three were adopted on March 16, 2021.
So for those protesting our collective diminishing freedoms, if you want improvements – which is a legitimate and worthy cause – there’s a good place to start. Policy wonks unite!
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