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This submission draws on PIAC’s earlier submissions to the ALRC and the NSWLRC about a potential cause of action for invasions of privacy. It also draws on the conclusions reached by the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) in its report, Surveillance in Public Places.
Based on PIAC’s experience as both a community legal centre and a consumer advocacy organisation, PIAC believes that Australia’s current legal framework does not adequately protect Australians’ privacy rights. PIAC strongly supports the introduction of a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy.
PIAC contends that the best approach to how the cause of action should be formulated would involve a combination of the recommendations of the different law reform commissions. As a starting point, PIAC would prefer a general cause of action, actionable without proof of damage broadly along the lines put forward by the NSWLRC. PIAC contends that the threshold test should be that there is an invasion of privacy ‘if the conduct of another person invaded the privacy that the individual was reasonably entitled to expect’. However, PIAC disagrees that the different public interests should be incorporated into the cause of action itself and prefers the proposal that countervailing rights and interests form one of a number of defences to the proposed cause of action. Finally, PIAC argues that there should be a rule in privacy cases that each party bears its own costs in order to ensure that the proposed cause of action is accessible.